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Madrigal arraigned for new trial

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Jamie Madrigal is escorted by Mark Lair, right, director of court security, and deputy Willie Gulley, for his arraignment.

The Blade/Alyssa Schukar
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The story of the shooting death in 1996 of 18-year-old Misty Fisher during the robbery of a KFC restaurant in South Toledo shocked and angered the community.

Ms. Fisher, a high school senior who was working as an assistant manager to earn money for college, was shot in the back of the head because she couldn't open a safe fast enough to suit the robber. She died on the way to the hospital.

Now, nearly nine years after he was sentenced to death for the murder of the Oregon teenager, Jamie Madrigal is going on trial for the crime again in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

In June, a federal appellate court affirmed the decision of U.S. District Court Judge James S. Gwin in Akron that the jury in Madrigal's 1996 trial should not have heard statements that a co-defendant gave to police.

Days after being moved from a cell on death row at the Mansfield Correctional Institution to the Lucas County jail, Madrigal, 32, was arraigned yesterday in common pleas court.

Madrigal did not enter a plea to charges of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery. He told Judge Gary Cook that his family was attempting to hire a private attorney to represent him in the new trial.

Judge Cook stressed to Madrigal the urgency of obtaining counsel, either privately or court-appointed, to satisfy the order of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals judges to try the case before mid-January.

Judge Cook set bond at $1.5 million and continued the arraignment to Tuesday.

In the new trial, prosecutors will not be allowed to introduce into evidence the statements given to police by Chris Cathcart, who confessed to being the get-away driver in the April 12, 1996, robbery.

Cathcart, then 23, told police he waited in a car while Madrigal entered the KFC, and that Madrigal returned with $300 that he took from the cash register and safe. But Cathcart invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege and refused to testify at Madrigal's trial, forcing prosecutors to submit the statement that he gave to police several days after the murder.

The Ohio Supreme Court said the admission of Cathcart's statements violated Madrigal's rights to cross-examine his accusers, but decided the issue was harmless and upheld the conviction.

But the federal appellate court in Cincinnati disagreed with the state's highest court on the impact the statement may have had on jurors, and said the statement was integral to the prosecutions' case.

Cathcart, who along with Madrigal was a former employee of the KFC restaurant, later pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and involuntary manslaughter. He is serving a 10 to 28-year sentence in the Lima Correctional Institution.

Prosecutor Julia Bates disputed the federal appellate court's ruling that the statement played a vital role in convicting Madrigal.

"I don't see any problem in overcoming not having the statement. I feel confident that the prosecutors in my office will convict Madrigal again," said Mrs. Bates, who was one of the assistant prosecutors handling the case in 1996. "I am not concerned about the evidence even though the federal court has grave concerns about the quality of evidence," she said.

In addition to Cathcart's confession, the jury heard the testimony of five witnesses, including two customers who identified Madrigal's red Buick with distinctive hubcaps in the parking lot at the KFC.

Mrs. Bates also pointed to the trial in which 12 jurors found Madrigal guilty of the crimes, and that their decision was scrutinized and upheld by nine justices on the Ohio Supreme Court, reviewed by a three-judge state appellate panel, and again by the state Supreme Court.

Dean Mandross, an assistant prosecutor who also was involved in the case in 1996, said the witnesses at the first trial will be approached to testify again. If they are not available, the transcripts would be made available to the jury.

"Unless there has been a substantial change in the nature of available evidence, we are going forward with this capital case," he said.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.

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