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Pleau Case Raises Question Of State's Rights

Gov. Lincoln Chafee's decision to not turn over murder suspect Jason Pleau demonstrates larger controversy of federal jurisdiction.

In a case which brings up questions of jurisdiction and state rights, Gov. Lincoln Chafee murder suspect Jason Pleau to the federal government yesterday, stating that he could not expose a Rhode Island resident to the possibility of a death penalty prosecution.

Pleau was one of three suspects and robbery of David Main, which took place at Citizens Bank on Diamond Hill Road in Woonsocket in September of 2010. Main was shot to death at close range and robbed of  a $12,542 deposit he was bringing to the bank from the Shell gas station he managed.

Because accounts at all U.S. banks are insured by the federal government, bank robbery and the other crimes related to Main's murder fall under federal jurisdiction.

The federal government has not decided if it will seek the death penalty for Pleau, but the case would be considered eligible. Although Rhode Island does not have a death penalty, defendant can still receive the death penalty for a federal capital crime.

In the past, critics have claimed this an usurpation of states’ rights, as well as a potential violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which prohibits the government from imposing cruel and unusual punishment.  

Pleau is serving an 18-year sentence at an Adult Correctional Institutes for a separate case, and has not yet been arraigned on the federal charges of Hobbs Act conspiracy to commit robbery affecting commerce, Hobbs Act robbery affecting commerce, and using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, causing the death of another. Chafee is able to deny the extradition request under the pretext of holding Pleau for charges in Rhode Island.

Jim Martin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Rhode Island, has said the case will still be prosecuted at the federal level.

STEPHEN WEBER June 24, 2011 at 06:46 PM
OUTSTANDING!!!! This governor has shown his true colors though as an enemy to the law abiding and decent people of Rhode Island.... Everything this governor stands for is WRONG!!!
Steve June 24, 2011 at 07:27 PM
After reading some of the latest news on this, I'm confused now. It looks like Gov. Goofey just got trumped by Kilmartin and this case is going to Federal court?
Harold Ryan June 25, 2011 at 11:05 AM
I am no fan of Lincoln Chafee but I do need to question the federal government and its never ending thirst for power over the states and people. So Mr. Weber which article and enumerated power are you referring to? This doesn't have to be a slap in the face to the victims and the families. If the federal government prosecutes the killer, will the families feel anymore vindicated? Those who would like to see this man put to death will not see it through the federal system or the state. You would have to transfer this man to Texas, they have an express lane to the death chamber.
Harold Ryan June 25, 2011 at 11:43 AM
If an individual were going to be sentenced for a crime where would you rather do your time in the state prison or a federal prison? I think, state prisons are very harsh and underfunded. Whereas federal prisons are well-funded and the inmates lead the good life. This is opinion not known fact. For those who would like to see the death penalty given in this case or in future cases there is a mechanism within the Rhode Island Constitution for changing this law. For those who would like to see the death penalty in this case start working with the Gen. assembly to change it.
STEPHEN WEBER June 25, 2011 at 12:00 PM
RE question @ Harold Ryan I'm no Constitutional expert, and I do not pretend to be , however I do believe and hope like Hell, that the Constitutions Supremacy clause dictates that Federal law , and thus violations of Federal supersede state laws and state jurisdictions and Authority very temporarily (I HOPE) held by this Governor... and in my opposing opinion to yours also . THIS IS A SLAP IN THE FACE !!! to the victim, his family and ALL people of Rhode Island ... ALL !!! deserve better and ALL have been betrayed by this Governor...

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