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'Craigslist killer' argues he was denied fair trial

Summit man makes case to Ohio Supreme Court

By RANDY LUDLOW GateHouse Media Ohio Published: September 27, 2017 4:00 AM
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The so-called "Craigslist killer," convicted of luring three down-on-their-luck jobseekers to their deaths in 2011, wants the Ohio Supreme Court to remove him from death row.

Richard Beasley contends a parade of errors during his Summit County trial in 2013 improperly led to his aggravated murder convictions and sentence of death by lethal injection.

Beasley, now 58, was denied a fair trial due to ineffective assistance from his lawyers and a potentially biased judge and juror, his appeals lawyer, Donald Gallick of Akron, told the justices Tuesday.

Beasley's trial also was compromised by the failure to move the proceeding to another county amid international headlines and about the sensational case, Gallick said.

Stephen Maher, an assistant Ohio attorney general, attempted to refute Beasley's legal arguments, saying Beasley was legally convicted and that any errors were harmless and would not have changed the verdicts.

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Beasley was sentenced to death after being found guilty in the shooting deaths of three men, and the attempted murder of another, who responded to online Craigslist advertisements seeking to hire a caretaker for a Noble County cattle farm.

The bodies of David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Virginia, and Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron were found in graves in a wooded area of Noble County. Their bodies were found after a man who responded to the ad was shot in the arm and fled from the man seeking to "hire" him through the online ad.

The body of the third victim, Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, was found buried in Akron. All three of the victims were shot in the head.

The men were killed for their belongings, with Beasley also stealing Geiger's identity in a bid to escape a warrant for a parole violation from a Texas property-crime conviction, authorities claimed.

Authorities traced the placement of the Craigslist ads to a computer located in an Akron house where Beasley rented a room, leading to his arrest. A boy who was then 16, Brogan Rafferty of Stow, was convicted of assisting Beasley in his deadly scheme and was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Beasley was a friend of Rafferty's father and, during Rafferty's trial, witnesses testified that Beasley was like an uncle to the boy.

Gallick said Beasley's trial was compromised by lawyers who, for example, failed to seek the removal of a juror who realized at trial that he knew an FBI agent who was testifying, although he did not previously know the man's occupation.

The trial judge also should have been recused since her handling of the case may have been influenced by handling Rafferty's case, which was handled first, he said.

The FBI agent also improperly referred to Beasley's prior criminal "activity," Gallick said. And, the prosecutor in opening statements attempted to insert religion in the case by saying the defendant was a "wolf in sheep's clothing" in paraphrasing a statement by Jesus in the Bible.

While Beasley was labeled the "mastermind" in the case, Rafferty was found in possession of the murder weapon and shovel used to bury the victims while other hearsay testimony was permitted in evidence, Gallick said.

Maher said the judge in Beasley's case sustained an objection over the prosecutor's "sheep's clothing" remark and that his lawyers did not seek to remove the juror who knew the FBI agent.

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