APnv 06/04 0219 Layton
By BOB EGELKO Associated Press Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Former People's Temple member Larry
Layton has been denied a new trial on charges he aided in the
1978 murder of U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan, which triggered the mass
murder-suicide of the religious cult in a South American jungle.
Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Peckham on Wednesday rejected
arguments by Layton's new lawyer that Layton was denied effective
legal assistance because his trial lawyers failed to learn he
faced a mandatory life sentence if convicted and decided not to
put on an insanity defense.
Layton's trial lawyers showed "competence, conscientiousness
and dedication," said Peckham, who presided over Layton's first
trial, which ended in a hung jury in 1981, and his second trial
that ended in a conviction last December. " ... Layton could not
have asked for better legal representation."
Layton, 41, the only former temple member tried in the United
States, was convicted of conspiracy and aiding and abetting in
the murder of Ryan, D-Calif., and the attempted murder of U.S.
diplomat Richard Dwyer on an airstrip in Guyana in November 1978.
Ryan and four others were shot to death by gunmen from the
temple's nearby jungle headquarters, and Dwyer and 10 others were
wounded. Layton, who had gone to the airstrip posing as a
defector from the temple, shot and wounded two genuine defectors
who were trying to leave the country with Ryan's party in a
Hours later, the Rev. Jim Jones and 912 followers died by
poison and gunfire in a murder-suicide ritual at the agricultural
compound called Jonestown, where Ryan had completed a
fact-finding visit the previous day.
The judge said the decision not to present a psychiatric
defense was "a deliberate tactical choice made after extensive
discussion among the attorneys and with the agreement of Layton
himself." Even had he known he faced a mandatory life sentence,
Peckham said, Layton would not have insisted on testifying or
putting on an insanity defense.
Layton's new lawyer, Robert Bryan, has appealed the
convictions and said he would also appeal Peckham's ruling.
Layton is free on bail during the appeal.
At both trials, Layton's lawyers presented no evidence and
called no witnesses, choosing instead to argue that the
prosecution had failed to prove that Layton was part of a
conspiracy with Jones to kill Ryan so that the congressman could
not report on conditions in Jonestown.
Peckham sentenced Layton to life, as required by law, but
ordered him considered for parole in five years, half the usual
time. The judge said Layton had not been a major member of the
In seeking a new trial, Bryan said Layton had been denied
effective legal assistance for two reasons: his lawyers had
failed to learn during the trial that the charge of aiding in a
congressman's murder carried a mandatory life sentence, and they
decided not to present a defense based on his mental state, even
though several psychiatrists had concluded that Layton had been
insane at the time.
Had he known of the sentence he faced, Layton testified after
the trial, he would have insisted on putting on a defense and
testifying at the trial, desspite his reluctance to reveal a
number of his disclosures to psychiatrists that included
statements about his sexual relationship with Jones.
But Peckham said Wednesday he found Layton's post-trial
assertions "not believable."
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