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HomeNewsArchivesDEATH PENALTY COULD APPLY IN EMERALD LADY CASE

DEATH PENALTY COULD APPLY IN EMERALD LADY CASE

Two years after a daylight robbery and murder in a Charlotte Amalie jewelry store, the trial of three men facing federal charges in connection with the case has been postponed and probably will not be rescheduled for at least another month. When it does begin, the defendants might face the death penalty, even though the Virgin Islands does not have capital punishment.
Neither the prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office nor attorneys for the defense are willing to discuss the probability that the three could become the first Virgin Islanders in modern times to face a possible death sentence in a trial held in the territory.
Defense Attorney George Hodge said certain complex matters related to the case are now under seal of the court and cannot be discussed in public.
The defendants, Jason Hull, Irvine Hodge and Devon Hodge, have been charged with armed robbery, murder and witness tampering in the robbery of an estimated quarter million dollars worth of jewelry and the shooting death of Emerald Lady store owner Larry Davis. Each of the three charges carries a potential death penalty under federal sentencing guidelines adopted during the last decade.
After the U.S. Attorney's Office announced a series of indictments and superseding indictments in the case, jury selection was set for May 8. At the last minute, however, the trial was postponed.
U.S. Attorney's Office officials said then that a new date would probably be set four or five weeks later. Now Assistant U.S. Attorney Hugh Mabe says the trial will not be rescheduled until District Court Judge Thomas Moore returns from off-island in late July.
Lawyers and anyone else involved in the case could face judicial sanctions if they discuss the matters under seal. Among the elements of the case that remain in the public purview is a motion by Attorney Hodge to have the dismissed on the grounds that a capital murder case should not be argued in a jurisdiction where there is no death penalty. He also moved for dismissal on the grounds that excessive pretrial publicity has made it impossible for his clients to get a fair trial.
On April 26, U.S. Attorney James Hurd issued a response, saying Hodge's death penalty argument was faulty because it suggested that V.I. law could pre-empt federal law. Hurd also said the defense had failed to prove there had been "an inordinate community saturation with prejudicial and inflammatory media publicity" concerning the case.
A veiled reference to pretrial death penalty arguments appears in a defense motion to allow Hull to be released on bail. Hull has been imprisoned without bail since December 1998, when V.I. authorities succeeded in having him extradited from St. Kitts, where he allegedly fled after the St. Thomas jewelry store robbery and murder.
"It is highly prejudicial to defendant Jason Hull to deny him his rights to both bail and speedy trial for the sole purpose of granting the plaintiff additional time to seek cruel and unusual punishment on a third superseding indictment," Attorney Hodge wrote in his motion. The term "cruel and unusual punishment" is commonly used by opponents of U.S. capital punishment laws.
Mabe noted that there have been other cases tried in the territory that carried a potential death sentence, although it has not been sought. One was for the 1997 murder of a mainland tourist who was fatally shot during a carjacking on St. Croix. Another was the case in 1999 of two Haitian boat captains tried for murder in the deaths of illegal aliens who died as a result of a boat accident as they attempted to land on St. Thomas.
And there may be other cases to come, Mabe said, noting that prosecutors are still sorting out the circumstances of the deaths of two Chinese illegal immigrants on New Year's near St. Croix's Point Udall.
But in cases which have already made their way through the court system in the territory, he said, no prosecutor has requested the death penalty.
"Cases become death penalty cases only if a decision is made by Janet Reno," the Attorney General of the United States, Mabe said, and they go to her only after U.S. Justice Department review.
With the Emerald Lady trial on hold, no V.I. officials are about to discuss their judicial intentions in public. However, a clue may lie in the specifics of the last charging document filed in District Court. For the first time it added the name Devon Hodge to those of Irvine Hodge and Jason Hull as co-defendants in the events of May 8, 1998. The charges they all face are:
Count 1 – violation of the federal Hobbs Act, interference with interstate commerce by armed robbery, which carries a possible death penalty.
Count 2 – first-degree murder using an illegal weapon, which carries a possible death penalty.
Count 3 – the slaying of jeweler Larry Davis to prevent him from testifying against Irvine Hodge in an earlier armed robbery of the Emerald Lady, which carries a possible death penalty.
Hurd is on record as saying he personally opposes capital punishment but would follow the directions of his boss, Attorney General Reno, if she decided the merits of the Emerald Lady case warranted the death sentence upon conviction.
Further indications as to the direction the case will take may emerge when Moore responds to the defense motions and to those already been filed by the prosecution. Mabe said the judge could respond to the motions in a variety of ways, some of which might involve hearings and rulings in open court.

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Two years after a daylight robbery and murder in a Charlotte Amalie jewelry store, the trial of three men facing federal charges in connection with the case has been postponed and probably will not be rescheduled for at least another month. When it does begin, the defendants might face the death penalty, even though the Virgin Islands does not have capital punishment.
Neither the prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office nor attorneys for the defense are willing to discuss the probability that the three could become the first Virgin Islanders in modern times to face a possible death sentence in a trial held in the territory.
Defense Attorney George Hodge said certain complex matters related to the case are now under seal of the court and cannot be discussed in public.
The defendants, Jason Hull, Irvine Hodge and Devon Hodge, have been charged with armed robbery, murder and witness tampering in the robbery of an estimated quarter million dollars worth of jewelry and the shooting death of Emerald Lady store owner Larry Davis. Each of the three charges carries a potential death penalty under federal sentencing guidelines adopted during the last decade.
After the U.S. Attorney's Office announced a series of indictments and superseding indictments in the case, jury selection was set for May 8. At the last minute, however, the trial was postponed.
U.S. Attorney's Office officials said then that a new date would probably be set four or five weeks later. Now Assistant U.S. Attorney Hugh Mabe says the trial will not be rescheduled until District Court Judge Thomas Moore returns from off-island in late July.
Lawyers and anyone else involved in the case could face judicial sanctions if they discuss the matters under seal. Among the elements of the case that remain in the public purview is a motion by Attorney Hodge to have the dismissed on the grounds that a capital murder case should not be argued in a jurisdiction where there is no death penalty. He also moved for dismissal on the grounds that excessive pretrial publicity has made it impossible for his clients to get a fair trial.
On April 26, U.S. Attorney James Hurd issued a response, saying Hodge's death penalty argument was faulty because it suggested that V.I. law could pre-empt federal law. Hurd also said the defense had failed to prove there had been "an inordinate community saturation with prejudicial and inflammatory media publicity" concerning the case.
A veiled reference to pretrial death penalty arguments appears in a defense motion to allow Hull to be released on bail. Hull has been imprisoned without bail since December 1998, when V.I. authorities succeeded in having him extradited from St. Kitts, where he allegedly fled after the St. Thomas jewelry store robbery and murder.
"It is highly prejudicial to defendant Jason Hull to deny him his rights to both bail and speedy trial for the sole purpose of granting the plaintiff additional time to seek cruel and unusual punishment on a third superseding indictment," Attorney Hodge wrote in his motion. The term "cruel and unusual punishment" is commonly used by opponents of U.S. capital punishment laws.
Mabe noted that there have been other cases tried in the territory that carried a potential death sentence, although it has not been sought. One was for the 1997 murder of a mainland tourist who was fatally shot during a carjacking on St. Croix. Another was the case in 1999 of two Haitian boat captains tried for murder in the deaths of illegal aliens who died as a result of a boat accident as they attempted to land on St. Thomas.
And there may be other cases to come, Mabe said, noting that prosecutors are still sorting out the circumstances of the deaths of two Chinese illegal immigrants on New Year's near St. Croix's Point Udall.
But in cases which have already made their way through the court system in the territory, he said, no prosecutor has requested the death penalty.
"Cases become death penalty cases only if a decision is made by Janet Reno," the Attorney General of the United States, Mabe said, and they go to her only after U.S. Justice Department review.
With the Emerald Lady trial on hold, no V.I. officials are about to discuss their judicial intentions in public. However, a clue may lie in the specifics of the last charging document filed in District Court. For the first time it added the name Devon Hodge to those of Irvine Hodge and Jason Hull as co-defendants in the events of May 8, 1998. The charges they all face are:
Count 1 - violation of the federal Hobbs Act, interference with interstate commerce by armed robbery, which carries a possible death penalty.
Count 2 - first-degree murder using an illegal weapon, which carries a possible death penalty.
Count 3 - the slaying of jeweler Larry Davis to prevent him from testifying against Irvine Hodge in an earlier armed robbery of the Emerald Lady, which carries a possible death penalty.
Hurd is on record as saying he personally opposes capital punishment but would follow the directions of his boss, Attorney General Reno, if she decided the merits of the Emerald Lady case warranted the death sentence upon conviction.
Further indications as to the direction the case will take may emerge when Moore responds to the defense motions and to those already been filed by the prosecution. Mabe said the judge could respond to the motions in a variety of ways, some of which might involve hearings and rulings in open court.