Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Child killer wins death-row appeal


Judges overrule conviction in 1978 case

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        After spending 22 years on Kentucky's death row for the slaying of a Cincinnati child, Eugene W. Gall Jr. was told Monday he really belongs in a mental hospital.

        A federal appeals court threw out Mr. Gall's murder conviction after concluding that evidence about his mental condition was not properly considered at his 1978 trial.

        Mr. Gall was convicted of abducting 12-year-old Lisa Jansen as she walked to her Columbia Township school April 5, 1978. He then raped and shot the girl, dumping her body in Northern Kentucky.

        In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the former Hillsboro, Ohio, man did not get a fair trial.

        “There is little doubt that Gall committed the acts in question,” wrote Judge Nathaniel R. Jones. “Unfortunately ... the trial and appellate courts failed in their duty to administer justice.”

        Judge Jones, along with fellow Judge Boyce F. Martin, found that the trial did not address the issue of whether Mr. Gall suffered from an “extreme emotional disturbance” before the murder. If Mr. Gall was found to have suffered from such a disturbance, he could have been declared legally insane.

        The decision stunned prosecutors.

        “It's unfortunate,” said Linda Tally Smith, the commonwealth's attorney for Boone and Gallatin counties. “It's just fascinating the court of appeals could buy into this argument.”

        Ms. Smith said Mr. Gall's mental state was thoroughly addressed during the trial. She said Mr. Gall refused to accept an insanity defense and claimed he could not remember the murder.

        The Kentucky attorney general's office may appeal to the full appellate court or to the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Gall, who has been on Kentucky's death row longer than any other prisoner, will remain there for now.

        Judge Jones said his ruling is conditional on Kentucky granting Mr. Gall a hearing for “involuntary hospitalization.”

       



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