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Death penalty stands for ethnic rampage



Published: Thu, June 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Ronald Taylor can seek appeals to his death sentence due to his mental health.

HARRISBURG (AP) -- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court let stand the death penalty for a black man who killed three white men in a racially motivated spree, but said he may pursue further appeals based on his claim that he is mentally retarded.

Ronald Taylor's trial for the March 2000 rampage occurred before the U.S. Supreme Court barred executing the mentally retarded.

In an opinion made public Wednesday, Justice Ronald D. Castille wrote that the trial record lacked enough detail for the state's highest court to evaluate Taylor's mental status.

The decision gave Taylor, 44, the right to pursue the issue through post-conviction appeals.

Taylor became enraged when two white maintenance workers at his apartment building were replacing his door. He set fire to his couch and left with a .22-caliber pistol. He began a shooting spree by killing one of the workers, then killed two white men and injured two others at two fast-food restaurants.

He killed Joe Healy, a 71-year-old former priest; Emil Sanielevici, 20, a University of Pittsburgh physics student; and John Kroll, 55, the maintenance worker.

He later shot at police, terrorized workers in a medical office and held police at bay before surrendering.

History of Illness

Authorities said they recovered writings from Taylor's apartment that expressed hatred for whites, Jews, Asians, Italians, police and journalists. One writing said Jesus "made a very big, costly mistake by putting white trash people on the face of the earth."

Taylor, unemployed and on disability at the time of the crimes, was found competent to stand trial despite a history of mental illness, including schizophrenia. The competency proceedings occurred before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 outlawed execution of the mentally retarded. That decision said states should determine how to evaluate retardation claims.




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