Longest-serving death-row inmate loses latest appeal
A federal judge has rejected the latest appeal by Jonathan Lee Gentry, Washington's longest-serving death-row inmate.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A federal judge has rejected the latest appeal by Washington's longest-serving death-row inmate, Jonathan Lee Gentry, turning aside allegations of police and prosecutor misconduct and nearly a dozen other claims that he didn't receive a fair trial.
Gentry, 52, has been on death row since 1991, when he was convicted of raping and killing a 12-year-old girl in Bremerton. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik ruled on a petition filed by Gentry's attorneys in 1999.
But the judge has given Gentry's attorneys until next month to ask him to reconsider portions of his ruling, and Gentry's lawyer promised to pursue the case into the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Lasnik, in a separate ruling earlier this month, found that the Kitsap County prosecuting attorney's office knowingly withheld evidence and elicited false testimony from at least one jailhouse snitch in the case. The judge found, however, that taken in context with other, damning evidence, the issue didn't prejudice Gentry enough to grant him a new trial or throw out the death penalty.
"We are greatly disappointed ... that the judge didn't find reversible error," said Gentry's appellate attorney, Scott Engelhard. "We believe the conviction should be overturned."
Engelhard said Lasnik's decision will be appealed.
Gentry was convicted of killing Cassie Holden, a Pocatello, Idaho, girl who was visiting her mother in Bremerton in June 1988 when she failed to come home for dinner one night. Her partially nude body was found two days later, on June 15, in woods nearby. An autopsy showed she'd been beaten with a large rock.
Witnesses reported seeing a black man in the area and Gentry, who was black, had a long criminal history and quickly came under suspicion after he was arrested for the knife-point rape of another young woman in Kitsap County.
He was charged with Holden's murder after hair and blood spatter on his shoelaces linked him to the crime.
Gentry has been on death row for 18 years, tying a record set by Mitchell Rupe, whose aggravated-murder conviction was later overturned, partly because a federal judge decided that hanging a person of his weight would result in cruel and unusual punishment. Rupe died in prison in February 2006 following a lengthy battle with liver disease.
Assistant Attorney General Paul Weisser said Gentry's case will likely take "at least two more years" in appeals.
"These are difficult cases and we know this process is a lengthy one," Weisser said. "We can't afford to get frustrated now."
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 09:46 AM
Exxon Mobil wins ruling in Alaska oil spill case
NEW - 7:51 AM
Longview man says he was tortured with hot knife
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.