APwv 08/27 1728 Supco Krishna CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Hare Krishna devotee Thomas A. Dre
APwv 08/27 1728 Supco Krishna
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Hare Krishna devotee Thomas A. Drescher on
Thursday said the jury should have been sequestered in his media-event murder
trial for the killing of a fellow devotee.
The state Supreme Court did not indicate immediately whether it would agree
to hear the appeal of Drescher, 37, of Ravenna, Ohio.
He was convicted in December 1986 for the 1983 death of Charles Joseph St.
Denis at the New Vrindaban Hare Krishna commune near Moundsville. Drescher
received the maximum penalty under West Virginia law, a life term without
chance of parole.
Drescher also faces murder charges for the unrelated May 1986 killing of
Krishna dissident Steve Bryant in Los Angeles. California is trying to
Prosecutors said St. Denis was shot a dozen times, stabbed, beaten with a
hammer and finally suffocated with plastic wrap placed in his mouth before he
Drescher's co-defendant, Daniel Reid, 31, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to
manslaughter and provided assistance to police.
In his appeal petition, Drescher said the case should have been dismissed
because of a three-year gap between when police first learned that Drescher may
have been responsible for the death and his indictment.
In addition, he argued that the Preston County jury should have been
sequestered because of the massive amounts of publicity involved. The petition
said the Marshall County prosecutor did not even challenge the defense's
petition to move the trial to Preston County.
" ... This created media exposure the likes of which West Virginia courts
have not seen for some time," the appeal said.
It said The New York Times even carried an erroneous story that said
Drescher had pleaded guilty.
In addition, the appeal said that on the first morning of the trial, there
was a story that the missing body of St. Denis had been unearthed at the
northern West Virginia religious commune.
"The timing of the discovery of this body was most circumspect and appeared
to have been orchestrated to coincide with the start of the trial," the appeal
The body was not St. Denis', whose corpse was discovered after the trial.
The appeal petition also said the conviction should be set aside because
Drescher was convicted without a body being produced.
"In Mr. Drescher's case, the state presented no body, no blood, no weapons
and no eyewitness," the appeal said.
Drescher also contended he was entitled to an appeal because the grand jury
that indicted him in Marshall County discriminated against blacks. He said the
grand jury has only had one black in 10 years, when there should have been an
average of 3.82 blacks on the grand jury.
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