Wednesday, March 07, 2007

First man sentenced to death for killing a fetus gets a new trial

In Ard v. Catoe, the first person in South Carolina to be sentenced to death for killing a fetus will get a new trial because his attorneys failed to challenge one of the state's expert witnesses. Joseph Ard was sentenced to death in the fatal shooting of his pregnant girlfriend, Madalyn Coffey, and the nearly full-term fetus in April 1993. Ard claimed that the shooting was an accident. He testified the gun went off when he tried to grab it from Coffey. Ard's trial counsel did not cross-examine a state law enforcement expert about gunshot residue on Coffey's hands and failed to investigate the expert's findings. According to the state Supreme Court, "trial counsel could have established that while there was a scientific finding of 'no gunshot residue,' there nevertheless was evidence consistent with (but not conclusive of) Coffey handling the gun. Had counsel elicited this testimony from Powell, the State would not have been able to attack the defense theory as convincingly as it did. "

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