Saturday, 24 February 2007

Moonda lawyers try to block death penalty

Moonda lawyers try to block death penalty

Lawyers for murder suspect Donna Moonda asked a judge yesterday to prohibit the U.S. government from pursuing the death penalty against her.

Her attorneys said capital punishment is "cruel and unusual in all cases"
and should not be an option for jurors when Mrs. Moonda goes on trial in June.

Yesterday was the deadline for pretrial motions, and Mrs. Moonda's 3 court-appointed lawyers peppered U.S. District Judge David Dowd with filings. 3 of their motions argued that the death penalty should be eliminated from her case.

Federal prosecutors have until March 15 to respond. Judge Dowd would then rule on whether the death penalty will remain an option if jurors in Akron, Ohio, convict Mrs. Moonda.

Prosecutors recommended that Mrs. Moonda, 47, of Mercer County, Pa., stand trial for her life because they say she coldly plotted the murder of her husband, Dr. Gulam Moonda. U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made the final decision in authorizing a capital case against her.

Damian Bradford, who was having an affair with Mrs. Moonda, has admitted that he shot and killed Dr. Moonda on the Ohio Turnpike in May 2005. He said Donna Moonda wanted her husband dead, and he committed the murder out of greed.

Mr. Bradford, 25, said she promised him half of her inheritance, which she estimated at $3 million to $6 million. Dr. Moonda, 69, was a wealthy urologist.

At trial, Mr. Bradford is to be the prosecution's chief witness against Mrs. Moonda. In return for his cooperation, the government has recommended that he serve 171/2 years in prison. With credit for "good time," he could go free before he turns 40.

With yesterday's motions, Mrs. Moonda's lawyers hoped to emphasize that the man who pulled the trigger could get out of prison someday, but the woman accused of arranging the crime could be put to death.

Mrs. Moonda is one of a handful of women in the last 60 years to face a federal death-penalty case.

The U.S. government has not executed a female convict since 1953. State governments, mostly in the South, have executed 11 women since 1984.

Mrs. Moonda's lawyers said in yesterday's filings that they need more time to complete her psychological evaluation. They said Mrs. Moonda's court-appointed psychologist has had just one meeting with her, and they have not yet received a report on the findings.

Her lawyers asked Judge Dowd to give them until March 26 to file additional motions, some of which may be linked to psychological examinations of Mrs. Moonda.

(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

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