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Rhode Island ACLU Gives its 2 Cents on Jason Pleau and Death Penalty

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 20, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The ACLU is weighing in on the fate of Jason Wayne Pleau, saying that the federal prosecutors are exercising "governmental vengeance."

Steve Brown, Director of the Rhode Island ACLU, has stated that there is no legitimate rationale for the government's interference in the Pleau matter, reports WPRO News.

We’ve been covering the legal tug-of-war on this blog and last we left off, the First Circuit Court of Appeals had ordered federal prosecutors to state whether they planned to seek the death penalty.

The ACLU’s comments come one day after federal prosecutors said that they plan to seek the death penalty in Pleau’s case.

The case, which involves a 2010 murder, has been at the forefront of the death penalty debate in New England. For those unfamiliar with the Pleau case, Jason Pleau agreed to plead guilty to state charges and spend his life in prison without parole, but the Rhode Island Attorney General later dismissed the charges without prejudice.

There is no death penalty in Rhode Island, though. Federal prosecutors came down on Pleau and decided to try him on federal counts. Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee refused to surrender Pleau to the federal authorities.

The puzzling issue is why the Federal Prosecutors would step in when Jason Pleau had already agreed to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Federal prosecutors argue that Pleau has shown no remorse and has never shown signs of rehabilitation from previous stints in court. While he has been sentenced to life in prison, they argue that this isn’t sufficient punishment for Pleau, who accosted a corrections officer in 2000, while in prison.

Pleau was stripped from Chafee’s hands earlier this year, when the First Circuit Court of Appeals said that Pleau had to be turned over to the feds.

Governor Chafee, who happens to be a strong opponent of the death penalty, has indicated that he plans to take the issue to the Supreme Court.

What started off as a murder outside a Woonsocket bank might be a case on its way to setting legal precedent defining the boundaries of federal reach into state crimes.

July 25, 2012 Editor’s Note: This post has been edited to more accurately reflect the fact that Jason Pleau agreed to plead guilty to state murder charges. These charges were later dismissed.

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