DOVER, Del. (AP) - A former Delaware death row inmate who has spent 18 years challenging his murder conviction is pressing yet another appeal.
At an evidentiary hearing Tuesday, attorneys for Ralph Swan questioned one of his former appellate attorneys, as well as a fellow prison inmate who testified against him at his 2001 trial. The judge is expected to hear more testimony next month from the ex-wife of Swan’s alleged accomplice.
Swan and Adam Norcross both were sentenced to death in 2001 for the 1996 murder of Kenneth Warren of Kenton. Warren was shot four times in a home invasion robbery.
Swan and Norcross were resentenced to life in prison without parole after Delaware’s Supreme Court declared the state’s death penalty law unconstitutional in 2016.
In his latest appeal, Swan raises more than 40 claims, including six that a different judge had previously identified as matters where additional evidence might be helpful to the court. Prosecutors argue that all six of those claims are procedurally barred.
Among other evidentiary issues, Swan’s lawyers claim that his trial attorneys erred in not challenging the seating of the jury forewoman, who had a family member who was a homicide victim. Swan’s attorneys also say his trial lawyers failed to object to testimony from his girlfriend’s stepmother, who suspected that Swan may have been involved in Warren’s killing.
Swan also is alleging that prosecutors improperly failed to disclose details of their agreement with convicted carjacker Richard Edwards, who testified against Swan. Edwards testified on Tuesday that prosecutors promised to transfer him to another prison in exchange for his testimony against Swan, but he denied that he was promised anything else, or that he threatened to recant his testimony after he was later moved from the prison where he expected to complete his sentence. Swan’s appeal attorneys also are challenging prosecutors’ failure to disclose details about Edwards’ history of mental illness to his trial lawyers.
Swan’s attorneys also say prosecutors failed to disclose the fact that the ex-wife of Norcross stood to collect a $10,000 reward in exchange for her testimony. The ex-wife, Bridgett Phillips, received the reward after Swan’s trial.
Prosecutors say that at the time Phillips testified, jurors knew that there was cash reward that was still unclaimed at the time, and that she might be able to claim it.
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