De­fense in mur­der case seek­ing de­lay

Coatesvill­e man’s lawyers have asked for more time to col­lect mit­i­gat­ing ev­i­dence in the case

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By MICHAEL P. REL­LA­HAN

Staff Writer

WEST CH­ESTER — At­tor­neys for a Ch­ester County man ac­cused of killing a Coatesvill­e teenager then dis­mem­ber­ing his body with a chain­saw have asked a Com­mon Pleas Court judge to de­lay the sched­uled start of his mur­der trial.

Judge Wil­liam P. Ma­hon held a closed-door hear­ing last week in which he lis­tened to ev­i­dence from a trial con­sul­tant called by the de­fense about the dif­fi­cul­ties she is hav­ing com­pil­ing so-called mit­i­gat­ing ev­i­dence for LaQuanta Chap­man.

Chap­man, 31, of Coatesvill­e is charged with first­de­gree mur­der, pos­ses­sion of a con­trolled sub­stance and re­lated of­fenses and is be­ing held in Ch­ester County Prison. Jury se­lec­tion is now

DE­LAY,

sched­uled to start Nov. 7, with the trial be­gin­ning Nov. 14.

Pros­e­cu­tors are seek­ing the death penalty.

In a mo­tion filed last month, de­fense at­tor­neys Michael Noone and Evan Kelly, both of West Ch­ester, told Ma­hon they would need more time to pre­pare Chap­man’s de­fense, and they asked that the judge post­pone the Nov. 14 start date “so that the de­fense can ad­e­quately pre­pare a mit­i­ga­tion pre­sen­ta­tion to the jury.”

A death penalty case in Penn­syl­va­nia is di­vided into two phases: the guilt phase and the penalty phase. If a de­fen­dant is found guilty of first-de­gree mur­der, the jury then hears ev­i­dence from the pros­e­cu­tion as to why he should face the death penalty and ev­i­dence from the de­fense to mit­i­gate that.

Noone and Kelly have hired Juan­da­lynn Tay­lor of Philadel­phia to work as their mit­i­ga­tion spe­cial­ist to as­sist them in col­lect­ing and re­view­ing what­ever med­i­cal, ed­u­ca­tional or legal records about Chap­man “from var­i­ous agen­cies in mul­ti­ple states’ that would help in his de­fense.

“Due to the num­ber of agen­cies that must be con­tacted and the amount of in­for­ma­tion that must be col­lected,” the at­tor­neys said, they would need time be­yond the cur­rent start date for the trial.

The closed-door hear­ing with Ma­hon on Wed­nes­day was held so that Noone and Kelly could have Tay­lor tell him about her ef­forts with­out giv­ing away de­fense strat­egy to the pros­e­cu­tion, they said.

The Daily Lo­cal News ob­jected to the hear­ing be­ing closed, but Ma­hon de­nied the pa­per’s re­quest to keep it open to the pub­lic.

First As­sis­tant District At­tor­ney Pa­trick Car­mody, who is lead­ing the pros­e­cu­tion of Chap­man, said that his of­fice wanted the trial to be­gin as soon as pos­si­ble in def­er­ence to the fam­ily of Chap­man’s al­leged vic­tim, 16-year-old Aaron Turner.

Ma­hon did not rule on the de­fense mo­tion Wed­nes­day and has sched­uled an in-cham­ber con­fer­ence next week to dis­cuss the mat­ter with all the at­tor­neys in­volved.

Nei­ther Noone nor Kelly would com­ment on their mo­tion or the dif­fi­cul­ties that Tay­lor is hav­ing col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion of Chap­man, who is from New Jer­sey and has a crim­i­nal record there.

Turner was

al­legedly mur­dered by Chap­man some­time in late Oc­to­ber 2008. He was last seen leav­ing home in Coatesvill­e on Oct. 30, 2008 to go to a com­mu­nity ser­vice ap­point­ment. He never re­turned home, and his body has not been found.

Po­lice fo­cused on Chap­man af­ter raid­ing his home on North Ch­ester Av­enue on Nov. 15, 2008 look­ing for ev­i­dence of a drug traf­fick­ing op­er­a­tion there.

Once in­side the home, the Coatesvill­e po­lice stum­bled on bloody cloth­ing and other ev­i­dence that led them to be­lieve that Chap­man had been in­volved in a homi­cide. They charged Chap­man and an­other man, Bryan Bird, with Turner’s mur­der in 2009 af­ter DNA and other ev­i­dence pointed to his in­volve­ment.

Chap­man is ac­cused of forc­ing Turner into the base­ment of the Ch­ester Av­enue home at gun­point, strip­ping him of his cloth­ing, fa­tally shoot­ing him then dis­mem­ber­ing his body with a chain­saw be­fore dis­pos­ing of the body parts.

Authoritie­s say Chap­man tried to dis­guise the dis­mem­ber­ment by cut­ting up dogs in his home and dis­pos­ing of their car­casses in the trash.

To con­tact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan, send an e-ail to mrel­la­han@dai­ly­lo­cal.com.

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