Man who killed trooper gets life without parole Appeals court overturned 1996 death sentence

July 11, 1998|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN STAFF

EASTON -- More than two years after receiving a death sentence for killing a Maryland state trooper, a North Carolina man learned yesterday that he will instead spend the rest of his life in prison.

Twenty-seven-year-old Ivan F. Lovell sobbed in the arms of his attorney after a jury foreman read the ruling that will spare his life -- unlike the decision of another Talbot County jury in June 1996 that ordered his execution.

Lovell was convicted of killing Tfc. Edward A. Plank Jr. after a traffic stop on U.S. 13 in rural Somerset County on Oct. 17, 1995. The death sentence was overturned by the Maryland Court of Appeals last year.

The state's highest court said Circuit Judge William S. Horne had not adequately instructed the jury. The court also said that Lovell should not have been made to appear before the jury with his arms and legs in shackles.

Bitter at the new sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole, members of Plank's family wept in the courtroom.

"It is just not fair," Sandy Plank, the mother of the slain trooper, said later. "This is a slap in the face of every law enforcement officer in this state. It's a travesty. They put their lives on the line every day and people do not back them."

The officer's family was not swayed by Lovell's tearful courtroom statement after the sentence was read. "I can't bring him back, but I want you to know that in my heart how sorry I am," Lovell said, turning to face Plank's parents and other relatives.

Somerset County State's Attorney Logan Widdowson quickly left the courtroom after the ruling.

"Obviously, the jury has spoken and there's nothing we can do about that now," Widdowson said. "The jury was split on the mitigating factors this time. That's the difference [between] a death sentence and life without parole."

Unlike the defense in Lovell's 1996 trial, attorneys Lauren Willis and Franklin Draper called a series of witnesses -- experts and family members -- during the weeklong sentencing hearing.

Draper said the witnesses showed that Lovell's abusive childhood had turned him into the "broken child" with an emotional age of 15 who shot the police officer in the face with a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol.

Defense witnesses said that Lovell was emotionally immature and had suffered brain damage from abuse he endured throughout his childhood.

Draper said that Lovell, who pleaded guilty to murdering Plank, accepted responsibility for the killing. Lovell, Draper said, wanted the life sentence to maintain a relationship with his 5-year-old son and 14-year-old stepdaughter.

"All we were trying to do was to show Ivan Lovell as a human being," Draper said. "His last words to me were, 'I won't disappoint them [the children].' "

Lovell has a criminal record for drug offenses, but had never before been convicted of a violent act. Plank was shot by Lovell after the trooper had stopped him and his cousin, William Lynch, for speeding near Princess Anne.

Police recovered cocaine worth an estimated $63,000 from the car. Investigators said the pair apparently were returning to the Raleigh, N.C., area after buying drugs in New York.

Lynch was convicted on drug and handgun charges and is serving a 20-year sentence. Lovell also pleaded guilty to drug and handgun charges and drew an additional 110-year prison term.

Pub Date: 7/11/98

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