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Federal death penalty trial still possible

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The first-ever federal death penalty trial in the Southern District of Indiana may still happen, even though the defendant has signed a plea agreement in connection with a violent killing spree almost three years ago.

A plea hearing was set today for Jarvis Brown, who was one of three men charged with a series of robberies, attempted robberies, and shootings in Indianapolis and Evansville during an 18-day period in December 2005. All parties signed a plea agreement, but a courtroom deputy in U.S. District Judge Richard Young's Evansville chambers said a morning plea hearing didn't happen as planned. Though both sides have signed a plea agreement, Brown refused to sign a petition that the judge wanted on the record.

Now, the judge has given Brown until Oct. 9 to file a petition with the court. If that doesn't happen, the plea agreement will be taken off the table and a death penalty trial will be rescheduled.

Federal prosecutors indicted Brown in June 2006, showing the men during their crime spree shot 12 people - killing four and wounding eight. The U.S. Attorney's Office requested the death penalty for the trio; cases remain ongoing for co-defendants Gabriel Jordan and Teddy Weems.

The case was originally set for trial earlier this year but was repeatedly continued as plea negotiations occurred. The agreement between the U.S. Attorney's Office and Brown came Sept. 19 and would mean the Indianapolis man would likely spend the rest of his life in prison rather than being executed.

In the 12-page plea agreement, Brown agrees to plead guilty to six counts ranging from murder of a witness to prevent them from communicating with police; conspiracy to posess and distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine and marijuana; conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats or violence; use of a firearm during a crime of violence; and drug trafficking that resulted in murder. The agreement states that Brown, who is in his late 20s, will cooperate with authorities and be subject to five life sentences and a 20-year imprisonment, all to run consecutively.

Neither the U.S. Attorney's Office nor Brown's attorneys in Evansville returned a call today from Indiana Lawyer.

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