Saturday, August 23, 2003

Murderer who killed woman, son loses appeal

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - A man convicted of murdering his cousin and her 10-year-old son has lost an appeal of his conviction and death sentence to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

A jury found that Melvin Lee Parrish stabbed Rhonda Allen and her son, LaShawn, to death and wounded a second son, 5-year-old Jonathan, in a robbery Dec. 5, 1997.

He got the death penalty for killing LaShawn, life without parole for killing Allen, life for attempted murder and 50 years for robbery.

In his appeal, Parrish claimed that Jefferson Circuit Judge Lisabeth Hughes Abramson was wrong to have permitted the jury to hear autopsy evidence that Rhonda Allen was pregnant.

Writing for the majority, Justice Donald Wintersheimer said the pregnancy "was not sensational or shocking or likely to induce any undue sympathy" for the victims.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Janet Stumbo said it was "a reasonable presumption" that Parrish would be characterized "as the murderer of a mother and her unborn child and that such a characterization would have an undue prejudicial effect."

Justice Martin Johnstone joined in the dissent.

In a third opinion, Justice James Keller also said evidence of Allen's pregnancy should have been excluded but was not prejudicial.

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