Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Defense pulls out of Craven case

New team, venue may alter course of wife's retrial

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - The retrial of Adele Craven in connection with the slaying of her Delta Air Lines pilot husband may be much different than the one that resulted in a hung jury in Lexington in December.

The next trial, set for May 19, will be handled by a new defense team and will likely be held 105 miles southwest in Louisville.

Co-defense counsel of Deanna Dennison and Linda A. Smith withdrew from the case Monday, leaving the judge scrambling to find a new attorney who can take a capital case. Ms. Dennison, who is pregnant, said her baby is due in June.

University of Kentucky law professor William Fortune says choosing from a different jury pool in a more liberal and slightly more diverse city like Louisville could be all that is needed to tip the scale to Mrs. Craven's side. The first jury voted 8-3 for acquittal, with one juror undecided.

"The prosecution must find a jury with sympathetic ears," said Mr. Fortune, who has taught criminal law and procedure for 20 years and has experience as a defense attorney in the state and federal court systems. "The next jury might not hold reasonable doubt to such a high standard."

The jury in the first trial asked the judge to define reasonable doubt, but the law prohibited her from doing so.

Mrs. Craven, 39, of Edgewood is charged with complicity to murder, accused of conspiring with her reputed lover to hire a hit man to kill her husband, Stephen. Mr. Craven, 38, was home on vacation in July 2000 when he was found beaten and shot to death.

The triggerman in the case, Ronald Scott Pryor, 35, of Independence, was found guilty of murder on May 6. The jury recommended death.

A third person charged, Russell "Rusty" McIntire, 34, of Erlanger agreed to testify against Ms. Craven in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.

Kenton Circuit Judge Patricia Summe chided Ms. Dennison on Monday for not withdrawing from the case a month earlier if she knew her pregnancy was likely to conflict with the rescheduling of the trial.

"Are you saying you have wasted a month of the court's time?" said Judge Summe, before she demanded to know who Ms. Dennison had talked to in the public advocacy's office in Frankfort about getting another defense attorney.

Judge Summe called Public Advocacy Regional Manager Rob Riley, who was at home in bed ill, from a telephone in the courtroom and asked on speaker phone in the courtroom what the delay was in getting a new public defender assigned to the case.

Mr. Riley explained the public advocacy field office in Covington had a conflict of interest that will prevent it from taking the case. Its director, Mary Rafizadeh, attended the same church as the Cravens and knew the couple.

The public advocacy capital trial branch in Frankfort also will have to excuse itself from the case, he said. It has a conflict of interest because the office defended a co-defendant in the case.

"It's going to be difficult, but we will find someone," Mr. Riley assured the judge.

Ms. Dennison, who declined to speak with reporters after the hearing, was Mrs. Craven's private attorney until the homemaker was declared indigent by the courts.

Ms. Dennison then agreed to take the case for no additional money if the commonwealth agreed to pay for expert witnesses and forensic testing. Mr. Fortune, co-author of Psychology and The Legal System and Kentucky Criminal Law, said there are too many unknowns to factor what the new defense attorney means for Mrs. Craven.

"All things being equal, it would be better for a defendant to have the same counsel throughout the course of a case," he said, "but don't underestimate the public defender's office. The state does a real good job defending these capital cases. The public defender's system put a high priority on capital cases. They have a lot of highly qualified attorneys."

E-mail jhannah@enquirer.com

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