Richard R. Laird, convicted in the brutal slaying of gay artist Anthony Milano, wants a federal judge to pave the way for a third trial in his case.
In 1987, Laird and Frank R. Chester kidnapped Milano to a wooded area in Bucks County and hacked out his throat. Both men were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. But federal judges overturned their first-degree murder convictions on the basis they received unfair trials.
Laird was retried and reconvicted of first-degree murder in 2007, and remains on death row. State courts denied his request for a third trial.
But last week, Laird asked U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois to pave the way for a third trial, claiming his 2007 retrial was unfair.
Laird’s filing contends he wasn’t capable of forming a specific intent to kill Milano, due to excessive alcohol consumption, brain damage and other mental disorders.
Laird’s 158-page filing focuses on physical and sexual abuse that he allegedly experienced by his father.
“The father would beat [Laird] until he was too tired to keep beating him. If [Laird] cried during the attacks, the father became more abusive. He saw crying as proof that [Laird] was a ‘pussy,’ and he beat him more,” the filing states.
The elder Laird’s sexual abuse of his son was particularly damaging, the filing states.
“At first, the sexual abuse was in the form of oral rape — his father forced [Laird] to perform fellatio on him and would ejaculate in his son’s mouth. Later [Laird] was subjected to anal rape as well. This horrific abuse occurred regularly for over five years.”
The filing adds: “The father would go into [Laird’s] bedroom, remove his clothes and force [Laird] to perform oral sex on him. After the father ejaculated, he would punch [Laird] in the face and head, call [Laird] a ‘dirty son-of-a-bitch,’ and tell [Laird] that he made the father sick.”
The sexual abuse contributed to Laird’s homophobia, culminating in Milano’s murder, when Laird was 24, according to the filing.
“[Laird’s] violent behavior was a pent-up rage that he would feel against any male perceived as wanting to touch him against his will,” the filing states.
Laird suffered brain damage on numerous occasions, beginning at birth when a doctor improperly utilized forceps to deliver him, according to the brief.
“At the time of the offense, [Laird] suffered from alcohol intoxication and delirium, and he was ‘substantially impaired’ by a very large amount of alcohol.”
Laird faults his 2007 attorneys for failing to present an expert on male sexual abuse.
“An expert in male sexual abuse not only would have been able to educate jurors on the devastating implications of abuse by family members, but also would have been equipped to explain how and why men process such abuse,” Laird’s filing notes.
In addition to claiming ineffective assistance of counsel during his retrial, Laird also claims improper victim-impact information, improper jury instructions by the trial judge, lack of sentencing options for jurors and prosecutorial misconduct.
Prosecutors have until April 19 to respond to Laird’s allegations. Then, Laird’s attorneys will have an opportunity to file a rebuttal brief.
Laird, 52, and Chester, 47, remain on death row in Pennsylvania prisons. Prosecutors have until March 20 to decide whether to retry Chester for first-degree murder.
If Chester isn’t retried, he’ll be released from death row, but he’ll remain incarcerated due to other convictions.