Rodgers seeks to have his murder conviction overturned | News, sports, jobs

James Franklin Rodgers, 52, who served 35 years in prison for the home invasion, robbery and murder of Pasquale “Patsy” Lascoli of Altoona, filed a petition in U.S. District Court in Johnstown seeking a conviction for first-degree murder. evacuated.

Rodgers, who is represented by the federal public defender’s office in Western Pennsylvania, is appealing the verdict handed down by an out-of-county jury after four days of deliberations.

“No witness placed Mr. Rodgers in or near Mr. Lascoli’s home at the time of the murder,” according to the petition filed last week. Furthermore, other than the DNA evidence – evidence of questionable provenance – there were no fingerprints or other physical evidence that placed Mr. Rodgers at the crime scene. Nor did Mr. Rodgers confess to the crime.

Rodgers, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution in Somerset, has maintained his innocence.

His appeals were repeatedly denied in state courts, but in 2010, Assistant Federal Public Defender Kirk J. Henderson filed a federal appeal but stayed any further action until Rodgers’ state appeals were exhausted.

Rodgers, 17 at the time of Lascoli’s murder, was initially sentenced to life in prison without parole by Senior Judge Ellis Vanhorn of Bedford County.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life sentences for juveniles violate the U.S. Constitution, and in 2020, after reviewing the Rodgers case in light of the Miller decision, Senior Justice Daniel Lee Husary of Bedford County re-sentenced Rodgers Imprisonment for 40 years to life.

Rodgers’ defense team argued that he should be released on parole.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld Howsare’s minimum 40-year sentence and declined further review by the state Supreme Court.

“Frankie Rodgers has demonstrated resilience, rehabilitation, and transformation in overcoming extreme adversity in his childhood and adolescence and today is a mature, pro-social man of 52 years,” the defense asserts in its current motion.

Under the new sentence, Rodgers will not be eligible for parole for another five years, and as a result, the defense decided to move forward with its motion to vacate the jury’s verdicts, which found the defendant guilty of murder, robbery and aggravated assault.

The federal petition asserts that Rodgers’ attorney, Randall Miller, was under a great deal of stress during the trial and that the public defense was deficient in numerous ways.

He also criticized the police investigation and the trial judge’s decision to allow a statement made by Rodgers during an interview with the lead investigator to be admitted into evidence during the trial.

The defense revealed that Rodgers was not informed of his right to have an attorney present during the interview and did not receive a Miranda warning before the interview.

Police said that at the time of the interview, Rodgers was not a suspect in the murder.

In his current motion, defense attorneys, who also include Federal Public Defender Lisa B. Freeland and Assistant Public Defender Celeste Bacchi, of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for upholding the trial judge’s decision to allow the statement to go to trial.

But the focus of the federal petition for the first time is on the DNA evidence that was used to link Rodgers to the Lascoli murder.

In 1988, DNA was a cutting-edge science and Rodgers’ case was the first of its kind in Pennsylvania.

Judge Vanhorn conducted several days of pre-trial hearings before deciding that “DNA fingerprints” were acceptable to the scientific community.

The prosecution’s theory of the murder was that Rodgers used a knife to break into the home, stabbed Lascoli, 72, between 70 and 80 times, and that the intruder injured himself during the attack.

Police believed the motive was robbery, noting that the victim’s left front pocket, where he kept his wallet, was turned upside down. There was blood on the pocket.

There was also blood on the walls, floor and furniture in Lascoli’s house.

According to the defense, Rodgers was excluded as the source of “almost every type of forensic evidence” collected during the investigation.

These included: fingerprints found in the home and on the victim’s wallet, which was found days after the murder in Prospect Park; All blood samples collected at the scene; Bloody shoe prints near the body, in the kitchen and in the upstairs bedroom; A piece of gum was found at the scene.

However, the blood on the resulting pocket was associated with Rodgers.

A sweatshirt was also found in Prospect Park long after the murder, containing a mixture of Lascoli’s and Rodgers’ blood.

“Mr. Rodgers’ case was the first DNA case brought in Pennsylvania. … The DNA testing in this case was performed by a laboratory in New York called Lifecodes. The defense then devoted several pages in its motion to asserting that Lifecodes’ DNA testing process was flawed He concluded that “Mr. Lascoli’s DNA was not properly analyzed.

The defense asserted that an alleged deficient DNA test had led to Rogers’ conviction.

“If the commonwealth’s circumstantial case had gone to trial without the DNA evidence, this jury, which took four days to reach a verdict, would have returned a not guilty verdict,” she speculated.

Rodgers’ defense asked the federal court to grant the defense additional discovery with permission to amend its motion and grant an evidentiary hearing.

She also asked the court to “order Mr. Rogers’ convictions to be set aside.”

During his trial, Rodgers confirmed that he was not at the Lascoli home on the night of the murder.

He said he had been “smoking pot” and “drinking” that day and went to a friend’s house where he fell asleep.

The defense, in summarizing its testimony during the trial, indicated this

On June 7, 1988, the day of the murder, Rodgers had no money but the next day he had $40.

There was testimony that in the early morning of June 8, Rodgers arrived at a friend’s apartment with cuts on his fingers.

The initial review of Rodgers’ request will be conducted by federal Judge Lisa Bobo Lenihan in Pittsburgh.

According to the petition, Rodgers had a very troubled childhood that “experienced violence, assaults, disturbances, and emotional and psychological abuse, not as one bad day, but as a long period of very bad days.”

He knew Lascoli who was a friend of his mother’s.

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