Attorneys for Richard R. Laird came out swinging last week, reiterating their request that Laird’s first-degree murder conviction and death sentence be vacated.
In 1987, Laird and Frank R. Chester kidnapped gay artist Anthony V. Milano to a wooded area of Bucks County and used a box cutter to hack out his throat.
Milano was targeted due to his perceived sexual orientation.
In 1988, Laird and co-defendant Frank R. Chester were sentenced to death. Several years later, both sentences were vacated. Laird received a new trial in 2007, and was resentenced to death. In a recent plea deal, Chester pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and his death-sentence was permanently vacated. In return, Chester agreed to remain behind bars for the rest of his life.
Laird is seeking a third trial, claiming his 2007 trial was unfair, mainly because jurors didn’t hear sufficient evidence about his child sex abuse at the hands of his father.
Laird claims the alleged abuse imbued within him a deep homophobia that culminated in Milano’s killing when he was 23.
“[Laird’s] murder of a man he perceived as gay was linked to his own experience of brutal and horrific sexual abuse,” a June 24 legal brief states.
The brief emphasizes that Laird’s “intimate and senseless brutality” was due to homophobia caused by his father’s repeated molestation. The brief states that Laird’s 2007 attorneys failed to adequately convey that point to jurors.
“[Laird’s 2007 attorneys] were unable to manage the horrible specter of young Rick Laird’s repeated incestuous violent rapes by his father,” the brief states.
Laird’s current attorneys also contend that prosecutors wrongly minimized Laird’s abuse by indicating to jurors that even if it occurred, Laird still committed first-degree murder.
Additionally, his attorneys blasted the 2007 trial judge for permitting victim-impact testimony, even though that wasn’t permitted in 1987, when the murder occurred.
“The introduction of impermissible victim-impact testimony tainted the jury’s sentencing decision,” the brief states.
Moreover, his lawyers maintain, Laird was impermissibly found guilty of both first-degree murder and third-degree murder. “Richard Laird is guilty of first-degree murder or third-degree murder, but not both,” the brief states.
The brief concludes by reaffirming that Laird’s first-degree murder conviction and death sentence are unconstitutional.
Neither side had a comment.
As of presstime, the matter remained pending before U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois.
Laird, 52, remains on death row at a state prison in Waynesburg.