APwv 08/27 1728 Supco Krishna CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Hare Krishna devotee Thomas A. Dre

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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 extradite him. 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 was buried. 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 said. 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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