Defense in murder case seeking delay
Coatesville man’s lawyers have asked for more time to collect mitigating evidence in the case
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
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.
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.
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