Curran gets life Family’s wishes lead D.A. to abandon try...

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Curran gets life Family’s wishes lead D.A. to abandon try...

Post  NEADP on Sat Jun 21, 2008 10:21 pm

Curran gets life Family’s wishes lead D.A. to abandon try for death sentence


Richard C. Curran will spend the rest of his life in prison for the shooting death of his 31-year-old ex-wife, Tina S. Curran.

Surprisingly, that decision was not made by the jury that convicted him Thursday afternoon of 1st-degree murder.

In a rare development Friday morning at the penalty phase of Curran's weeklong trial, the victim's mother, Bonnie Smith, of Mount Carmel, testified that her family wanted the murder defendant to be sentenced to life in prison rather than be given the death penalty.

Smith made the request to the court after reading a prepared statement on behalf of the victim's family and an emotional letter from Tina Curran's 10-year-old daughter, Caitlyn, that brought tears to the defendant’s eyes for the only time during the trial.

The 34-year-old Curran, of Shamokin, was charged by Coal Township Police Chief William Carpenter with murdering his former wife on Aug. 24, 2005, on a loading dock outside Shamokin Area Community Hospital, where the victim, who lived in

Mount Carmel, was employed as a licensed practical nurse.

Curran, who was the chief of the 1-person Bernville Police Department at the time of the murder, was arrested later that evening while trying to cross the Canadian border in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

After listening to the wishes of the victim's family, Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini withdrew his plan to seek the death penalty and recommended the defendant receive life imprisonment without parole for murdering his ex-wife.

Rosini said he was prepared to present aggravating circumstances in the case in an attempt to obtain the death penalty for Curran, but said he realized it would be nearly impossible to convince the jury to go against the family’s wishes.

"I'm surprised by this morning's request by the family because I thought they were torn between the death penalty and life in prison," he said. "But the family has a right to address the court during the penalty phase and I respect their wishes."

Rosini, who waived his opening statement to the court before Smith presented her victim impact statement, believes justice was served in the case by the 1st-degree murder conviction, and said the defendant received an appropriate punishment for his crimes.

The district attorney said the mandatory life in prison sentence imposed by Northumberland County President Judge Robert B. Sacavage marked the 1st time in his 13 years as the county's top prosecutor that a jury didn't decide the sentence in a death penalty case.

Curran speaks

Curran's attorney, Karl Rominger, of Carlisle, who was seeking life imprisonment for his client after unsuccessfully arguing that Curran was guilty of 3rd-degree murder, did not oppose the sentence.

Prior to imposing the mandatory sentence, Sacavage excused the jury from the case and ordered a recess.

Upon reconvening, Curran spoke to the court for the first time throughout the trial.

Although he didn't issue a formal apology, the convicted murderer said he regretted the decisions he made on the day he killed his ex-wife.

"I just wish the events on Aug. 24, 2005, could have been different," Curran said. "I got upset and I should have known better as a police chief. I’m sure my children will grow up and have a good life. I didn't use common sense that day or I wouldn't have been subjected to this type of crime. I should have had the appropriate restraint to deal with it, and I overreacted. I should have stayed in my house that day and I don't know how I'm going to deal with this in the future. My future was destroyed over a matter of a couple minutes."

Curran thanked Tina Curran's family for wanting him to be sentenced to life in prison rather than receive the death penalty.

He also thanked the court for giving him an opportunity to talk.

Attorney dispute

Earlier in the morning, the defendant, while sitting in the courtroom in front of the jury, demanded that Rominger be fired, claiming he spent too much time on the Internet instead of giving his case more attention.

Sacavage then ordered jury members to be returned to the 3rd-floor jury room before addressing the issue with both attorneys and Curran in his chambers.

After Sacavage formally sentenced Curran to life in prison without parole, the defendant said he preferred to retain Rominger as counsel, at least temporarily.

When questioned about his client's request to fire him, Rominger said he was very surprised by it. The lawyer said he researched matters on the Internet pertaining to the murder case and believes he did a good job defending his client.

Rominger said he was happy his client was sentenced to life in prison rather than the death penalty and thanked Rosini for being fair in accepting the sentencing wishes of the family.

The formal sentence

Prior to sentencing Curran, Sacavage said Tina Curran's family was victimized by the defendant’s actions and must live the rest of their lives without their mother, sister and daughter. He said the murder was a devastating and dramatic event in the entire county, particularly in the eastern end. The judge told Curran he will no longer be able to live a normal life again as a result of his crimes.

Sacavage then ordered Curran to spend the rest of his life in state prison on the 1st-degree murder charge and sentenced him to 4 to 8 years in prison on the aggravated assault charge that will be merged with the criminal homicide offense. The judge also sentenced Curran to 1 to 24 months in state prison on the recklessly endangering charge. That sentence will run concurrent with the sentence for criminal homicide.

The aggravating circumstances Rosini was prepared to present to the jury included the felony charge of recklessly endangering another person and retaliation against a witness. The recklessly endangering offense involved the risk Curran posed to other people at Shamokin Area Community Hospital on the day of the murder, while the retaliation against a witness allegation pertained to threats Curran allegedly made toward his wife regarding child support payments he owed.

Rominger's mitigating circumstances in the penalty phase included his client's lack of a significant criminal history and the fact that he was a police officer assigned to enforce the law. He also cited Curran's alleged mental health problems as a mitigating circumstance.

2 of Rominger's witnesses for the penalty phase, Dr. Stanley Schneider, a psychologist from Camp Hill, and Dr. Pogos Voskanian, a psychiatrist from Huntingdon Valley near Philadelphia, were in the courtroom and prepared to testify, but their testimony was not needed.

(source: The News Item)

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