Chesterton Tribune

Death sentence upheld in Pines bank robbery shootings

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CHICAGO (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the death sentence for an Indiana man convicted of killing two bank tellers during a botched robbery.

A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously turned down arguments from attorneys for Odell Corley, who is black, that prosecutors had improperly rejected blacks from serving on the jury in his trial.

The judges also in Monday’s ruling denied claims that prosecutors wrongly influenced jurors during the sentencing phase by bringing up allegations that Odell had been involved in an Atlanta murder.

Corley, also known as Naish Ra’id, was sentenced to death in 2004 after a federal jury in Hammond convicted him of murder and other charges in the shooting spree at the First State Bank of Porter in the Town of Pines that also left a security guard paralyzed.

Corley’s attorney, Alan Freedman of the Chicago-based Midwest Center for Justice, said he expected to continue to pursue other possible appeals.

“We’re a long way off,” Corley said. “This was just the first step.”

Four others pleaded guilty to charges that they were involved in the robbery attempt at the bank about 20 miles east of Gary. Teller Kay Peckat, 52, died at the bank, while teller Chandler Simpson, 59, died about three months later from his wounds. The robbery yielded no money because the bank’s vault was locked.

Russell Hodge, who is Simpson’s son-in-law, said his family was frustrated that a ruling on Corley’s appeal had taken so long since the court heard the case in December 2006.

“I’d called the lawyers several times and they said they didn’t know why it was taking so long, but they were upset, too,” Hodge said. “I’m just glad they got it done.”


Posted 3/25/2008