EDMONDSON seeks rehearing in death sentence case

Friday, August 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Attorney General Drew Edmondson will ask an appeals court to reinstate the death penalty in a case overturned because of errors by an Oklahoma City police chemist.

Edmondson said Friday that he will ask the full 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to rehear the case against Alfred Brian Mitchell, 29. Mitchell was convicted of murdering 21-year-old Elaine Marie Scott in 1991.

A three-judge panel of the court reversed Mitchell's death sentence Monday because chemist Joyce Gilchrist's testimony about DNA evidence was wrong.

But Edmondson said the evidence supporting the death penalty against Mitchell is ``overwhelming.''

``Through 11 years of appeals, no state or federal court has questioned Mitchell's guilt,'' he said in a news release.

A federal court in Oklahoma had earlier thrown out rape and sodomy convictions against Mitchell because the jury wasn't told that an FBI agent refuted Gilchrist's test results. The appeals court judges said they weren't confident the jury would have returned the death penalty absent the rape and sodomy evidence.

The judges said the rape and sodomy evidence impacted the aggravating circumstances found by the jury in sentencing Mitchell _ that the murder was heinous, atrocious and cruel, that it was committed to avoid arrest for the rape and sodomy and that Mitchell posed a continuing threat to society.

``Concerns about testimony regarding rape and sodomy have already been addressed by the court,'' Edmondson said, ``and we are of the firm opinion that Mitchell's death sentence is valid without consideration of the evidence of rape and sodomy.''

Scott, a University of Oklahoma student, was beaten to death with a golf club and wooden coat rack on Jan. 7, 1991. Her nude body was found that afternoon at the Oklahoma City recreation center where she worked.

Her parents, Bruce and Ann Scott of Tulsa, had urged the attorney general to appeal the case after Monday's reversal.

``We're thrilled,'' Mrs. Scott said Friday. ``This is the right decision.''

Hundreds of cases handled by Gilchrist, a 21-year police chemist, are under review because of FBI allegations she made serious mistakes or overstepped the limits of forensic science.