Court won't get involved in inmate tug-of-war

Associated Press
FILE - This undated inmate file photo provided by the Rhode Island Department of Corrections shows Jason Pleau, charged in the fatal shooting of a man outside a bank in Woonsocket, R.I., in September 2010.  The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, refused to hear an appeal from Pleau and the state, and won't stop the federal government from claiming Pleau, who will face the possibility of the death penalty if convicted of murder. Pleau initially had been in state custody. After federal prosecutors charged him, Gov. Lincoln Chafee refused to turn over Pleau, citing the state's rejection of the death penalty. (AP Photo/Rhode Island Department of Corrections, File)
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FILE - This undated inmate file photo provided by the Rhode Island Department of Corrections shows Jason …

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday said it won't stop the federal government from claiming a Rhode Island inmate who will face the possibility of execution if convicted of murder, despite arguments that it violates the rights of a state without the death penalty.

The high court refused to hear an appeal from Jason Pleau and the state of Rhode Island. Pleau is currently awaiting trial in federal court in the killing of a gas station manager who was shot as he approached a Woonsocket bank to deposit money.

Pleau initially had been in state custody. After federal prosecutors charged him, Gov. Lincoln Chafee refused to turn over Pleau, citing the state's rejection of the death penalty.

But an appeals court ruled last year the state must surrender Pleau to federal officials, despite the state's insistence that the federal government is violating a legal agreement that authorizes the state to deny a request to transfer a prisoner.

U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha said he was pleased by the decision and that his office was prepared to move ahead with the case immediately.

Pleau's lawyer did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment.

Chafee was visibly shaken when he learned of the decision from a reporter Monday morning. He said he was disappointed but acknowledged the state's case was at an end.

"This is a state's rights issue," he said. "I thought the law was on our side."

Rhode Island abolished the death penalty in 1984, although no one has been executed in the state since 1845.

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Associated Press writer David Klepper contributed to this report.

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