Judge denies Marvin Gabrion’s latest appeal

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One of the last chances for Michigan’s only inmate on death row to avoid execution has been struck down.

In a 216-page response filed last week, a federal judge in West Michigan denied Marvin Gabrion’s latest appeal.

In that appeal, Gabrion claimed some of what the jury heard was false or misleading, that his attorneys were ineffective and that the government didn’t disclose some evidence that could have helped his case. He also claimed the death penalty was unconstitutionally applied in his case, in part because he is white and in part because he says he is mentally ill.

Judge Robert Jonker said the appeal had no merit and that parts of it didn’t meet procedural requirements. Jonker also rejected Gabrion’s request to have a competency hearing, to have a psychiatrist visit him, to file some documents under restricted access and to fire his lawyer.

>>PDF: Jonker’s decision

Gabrion was convicted in 2002 of killing 19-year-old Rachel Timmerman in 1997. Authorities say she was still alive when he bound her, weighed her down with cinder blocks and dumped her in a lake near Big Rapids.

At the time, Gabrion was awaiting trial for Timmerman’s rape. She and her 11-month-old daughter Shannon Verhage are among five people he is suspected of killing to get rid of them.

Michigan does not have the death penalty. But because Timmerman’s body was found on federal property in the Manistee National Forest, Gabrion’s case was handled at the federal level, which does have capital punishment. Over the course of several appeals, higher courts have overturned his sentence and then reinstated it.

Now 64, he is being held at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

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