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June 15, 2007
Update: High court upholds Pona's murder conviction
PROVIDENCE -- The state Supreme Court today upheld the first-degree murder conviction of Charles "Manny" Pona in what the court called "the senseless, random killing of Hector Feliciano" in 1999.
The state's highest court concluded Superior Court Judge Robert D. Krause did not err in denying Pona's motion for a new trial. The Supreme Court also upheld the Superior Court in the various other issues that formed the basis of Pona's appeal.
The decision also affirmed the conviction of Pona on charges of attempted arson and carrying a pistol without a license.
In July 2000, a jury found that Pona murdered the 17-year-old Feliciano in August 1999. More than three years later, a Providence County Superior Court jury convicted Pona for orchestrating the murder of Jennifer Rivera, the 15-year-old witness gunned down the night before she was to testify against Pona.
Pona is now serving two consecutive life sentences in prison, plus 28 years, for his crimes, according to the Attorney General’s Office, which issued a statement this afternoon by Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch
"As I said when Charles Pona was convicted of masterminding the brutal murder of Jennifer Rivera from inside his jail cell at the ACI, his actions over the course of eight months in 1999 and 2000 were heinous, cowardly, and unforgivable, and they tore a community apart,” Lynch said in the statement. “Today's decision by the Supreme Court upholds the important conviction for Pona's senseless murder of Hector Feliciano."
In the appeal pertaining to Feliciano's murder, lawyers for Pona, who is black, asserted that prosecutors kept a black woman off the jury because of her race. Defense lawyers argued in briefs that Krause denied Pona his constitutional rights in accepting the prosecution's reasons for removing "the only black juror seated on the panel."
The two sides argued the case on Feb. 27 before the Supreme Court. The court's finding was made public today.
-- projo.com staff writer Michael P. McKinney, with reports from projo.com staff writer Kate Bramson
Posted by Mike McKinney at 1:32 PM | Permalink
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