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Plea puts stop to federal death penalty trial

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The first-ever federal death penalty trial for the Southern District of Indiana was set to start today, but a plea agreement means a trial likely won't be happening at all for a man connected to a violent killing spree four years ago.

However, the Evansville court and U.S. Attorney's Office have been in this position before when the same defendant, Jarvis Brown, signed a plea agreement in September 2008 after months of postponements in the trial. Federal prosecutors indicted Brown in 2006, showing that Brown and two other men committed a crime spree and shot 12 people - killing four and wounding eight. The criminal activity was part of a series of robberies, attempted robberies, and shootings in Indianapolis and Evansville during an 18-day period in December 2005 that was all connected to a drug trafficking operation.

Last fall's plea agreement would have meant life in prison rather than execution for Brown, but he refused to sign a petition as the judge wanted, and the trial was rescheduled.

Now, attorneys have reached a similar result this time around. According to an entry dated March 17, the plea agreement entails Brown pleading guilty to six charges: murder to keep a woman from talking to law enforcement; three firearms counts, a count of drug trafficking conspiracy, and a count involving the intent to distribute more than 50 grams of narcotics.

All sides have agreed, and the court found Brown to be fully competent and capable of entering the plea agreement. A sentencing hearing is set before U.S. District Judge Richard Young in Evansville at 1:30 p.m. June 30.

Cases remain open for co-defendants Gabriel Jordan and Teddy Weems, though docket entries show Weems pleaded guilty at one point and Jordan's case could still lead to a death penalty trial.

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