Saturday, 24 February 2007

Pa. Supreme Court orders new trial for woman who murdered student

Pa. Supreme Court orders new trial for woman who murdered student

Associated Press

The state Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a woman who was sentenced to death along with her boyfriend for plotting the death of his ex-girlfriend and luring her to his trailer to strangle her.

The court's 4-1 decision on Wednesday overturned the conviction of Beth Ann Markman, 41, on charges of murder, kidnapping and unlawful restraint in the October 2000 death of Leslie Rae White.

The court said, among other things, that it agree with Markman's claim that the Cumberland County trial court should not have allowed the jury to hear an edited audiotape of a confession by the boyfriend, William Housman, 31, implicating her in the murder.

Housman did not testify during the trial, denying Markman the opportunity to confront him in court, said William Haught, the lawyer who represented her at the time.

"I'm pleased with the fact that the conviction has gone away and she's going to be taken off death row," Haught said.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice J. Michael Eakin wrote that admission of Housman's confession "was harmless in light of the overwhelming properly admitted evidence establishing appellants guilt."

Housman began dating White, 18, a photojournalism student at Harrisburg Area Community College, after they met at the Mechanicsburg Wal-Mart where they both worked in August 2000. White broke off the relationship when she learned that Housman had reunited with Markman, prosecutors said.

Authorities said Markman helped hatch a plot out of jealousy that began with Housman luring White to his Newville trailer on Oct. 4, 2000, by telling her that his father had died. Prosecutors say the couple gagged and strangled White after she went to comfort Housman that day, then drove her body to Virginia where they hid it in an abandoned car.

Housman and Markman were sentenced in 2001 to die by lethal injection. The Supreme Court upheld Markman's conviction on other charges of theft, abuse of a corpse, and criminal conspiracy.

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