News Briefing: March 6-12, 2015

News Briefing: March 6-12, 2015

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Local agencies host women’s health event

Three community organizations are coming together to raise awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls.


Philadelphia FIGHT, Caring People Alliance and the Boys & Girls Club of Philadelphia will mark National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day with a community health fair 1-3 p.m. March 7 at the R.W. Brown Community Center, 1707 N. Eighth St.

A variety of health and community-based organizations will provide women, girls and families with resources to help prevent the spread of HIV. Health professionals will be available to give free and confidential HIV tests. The event will also feature music, food and other activities.

National Women and Girls with HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is observed every year on March 10. According to the CDC, women make up 20 percent of the new HIV infections in the United States, with 80 percent of the new infections among African-Americans and Hispanics.

For more information, visit  

— Ryan Kasley

Deadline issued for appeal in rape case

Jeffrey J. Marsalis, who sexually assaulted two women in Philadelphia before raping a lesbian in Idaho, has been given until March 17 to file an appellant’s brief.

Marsalis seeks a new trial, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel during his 2007 Philadelphia trial.

He also seeks the removal of the District Attorney’s Office from the case, because one of his accusers allegedly worked at the D.A.’s Office at the time of his 2007 trial.

Marsalis requested multiple deadline extensions to file his brief, citing insufficient documents from Philadelphia court officials to compose it.

But last month, the state Superior Court said Marsalis now has sufficient documents to compose his brief, and he won’t be granted additional deadline extensions.

Marsalis, 41, remains incarcerated at a state prison in Marienville. 

His scheduled release date is Jan. 17, 2017. Then, he must begin serving a 14-year prison sentence in Idaho for raping a lesbian in that state, according to court records.

Pauper status approved in Shephard case

The pauper status of William F. Smithson, who’s convicted of murdering Jason Shephard in 2006, was recently approved in state Supreme Court.

The approval allows Smithson to waive an $85.50 filing fee and move forward with his request that the state Supreme Court consider his case.

Smithson wants the court to consider granting him a new trial for Shephard’s murder.

But the five judges on the court haven’t yet announced whether they’ll consider Smithson’s request.

In 2008, Smithson was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the strangulation death of Shephard.

The two men worked at Daktronics, an electronic-billboard manufacturer. In 2006, Smithson invited Shephard to his Delaware County home. There, Smithson strangled Shephard in the course of trying to rape him, according to prosecutors. 

Smithson denies the allegations.

He maintains that F. Bruce Covington, who was also inside Smithson’s home when Shephard died, wasn’t properly investigated.

Covington was convicted of drug-related offenses relating to the incident, but prosecutors say he didn’t kill Shephard.

In December, the state Superior Court denied Smithson’s request for a new trial, stating that Covington was adequately investigated.

Advocates for Smithson — who is openly gay — say there’s no direct evidence linking Smithson to Shephard’s strangulation. They also say homophobia played a significant role in Smithson’s prosecution.

Smithson, 50, remains incarcerated at a state prison in Huntingdon.

— Timothy Cwiek


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