Sentencing phase begins for killer of state trooper Jury will consider possible death penalty

June 25, 1996|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

EASTON -- Jury selection began yesterday for the sentencing of a North Carolina man who pleaded guilty to the October fatal shooting of a state trooper in Somerset County.

Attorneys for Ivan F. Lovell, 25, requested that a jury decide whether he will face life imprisonment or the death penalty for shooting Trooper Edward A. Plank Jr. during a traffic stop near Westover.

In death penalty cases, the defendant is allowed to choose whether a judge or jury will pronounce sentence. If the jury chooses death, the verdict must be unanimous.

Lovell's attorney has also tried -- unsuccessfully -- to have the trial moved out of Talbot County, arguing that a defense study of the jury pool showed that blacks were under-represented. Lovell is African-American; Plank was white.

"A black citizen is about 53 percent less likely to serve in the jury pool," said Richard A. Seltzer, an expert in statistics and jury selection who testified at yesterday's proceedings for the defense.

Seltzer testified that Talbot County's method of using only registered voters to draw a pool of jurors was inadequate. Other jurisdictions have begun using the state's list of licensed drivers, he said, which makes juries more representative of the community at large.

But Judge William S. Horne declined to move the trial, saying, "The court feels that the totality of the evidence does not support a finding of deliberate discrimination."

In another ruling before jury selection began yesterday afternoon, Horne denied a defense request to have Lovell unshackled while in court. In yesterday's appearance, as he has previously, Lovell was wearing leg and arm shackles.

Horne denied the request because, he said, the shackles were unlikely to prejudice the jury, which will be told that Lovell confessed to killing Plank and pleaded guilty to a charge of first-degree murder.

Lovell and his cousin, William Lynch, were driving south on U.S. 13 early on the morning of Oct. 17 when they were stopped by Plank. After Plank was shot, the two men fled.

Lovell, who had been wounded by Plank's partner, Dennis Lord, ran to the house of a nearby farmer, broke in and began shooting at the farmer and his wife. The farmer managed to subdue him and called police.

Lynch was arrested less than 24 hours later when he walked out of the woods into a police roadblock in Somerset County.

Jury selection resumes today in District Court in Easton.

Pub Date: 6/25/96

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