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Published: Thursday, 10/3/2002

Killer's fate goes to panel of judges

Wesley Ulis will let a three-judge panel decide his fate in a death-penalty trial for the 1985 murder of Josephine Richmond.

Ulis, who is serving life sentences for the murder of a woman and her daughter, gave up his right to a trial by jury during a hearing yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

“I'm going with this because of a previous [jury trial],” Ulis told Judge Frederick McDonald.

The judge will hear the case along with Judges James Jensen and Charles Wittenberg, both of whom serve in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. The trial begins Oct. 28.

David Klucas, one of Ulis' attorneys, said he couldn't get too specific about why the panel was chosen over a jury. “In some capital cases, it's tactically advantageous to try the case to a jury, and in some capital cases, it's tactically advantageous to do it to the panel,” Mr. Klucas said.

The move doesn't bother the prosecution, said Jeffrey Lingo, an assistant county prosecutor. “It doesn't matter if it's a jury or a three-judge panel. We just want a fair trial,” he said.

Mr. Lingo said he thinks defense attorneys opt to go in front of panels sometimes because they may have legally technical arguments that judges will understand more than a jury made up of citizens from around the county. He said judges have seen similar cases, so they may not be as shocked by the evidence that is presented.

“If it's a very brutal crime, in instances like this, a defendant may decide it's better to go in front of a panel rather than a jury,” he said.

Miss Richmond, 40, was found March, 18, 1985, in a second-floor bedroom of her home on Clinton Street. She died from multiple stab wounds and strangulation.

Ulis, 38, was indicted in November for aggravated murder with rape, aggravated burglary, and aggravated robbery specifications. Prosecutors said DNA analysis of evidence taken from the investigation of Miss Richmond's murder matched the computer DNA database of prisoners in state facilities.

Mr. Lingo said DNA analysis probably would be completed by the end of the month.

Ulis is serving life sentences for the murders of Stephanie Smith and her daughter, Nateasha, 6. They were found strangled in August, 1988, in their East Woodruff Street apartment.

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