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New appeal in Corcoran killings

Case heading to 7th Circuit for fourth time


The attorneys representing death-row inmate Joseph Corcoran are appealing his case to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals again.

In paperwork filed in U.S. District Court this month, Corcoran’s attorneys sought to be allowed to have the higher court review a January decision by U.S. District Judge Jon DeGuilio that denied Corcoran relief from his 1999 death sentence.

In January, DeGuilo found that Corcoran failed to show that Indiana’s decisions to uphold the death penalty in his case were contrary to decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.

If accepted by the court, this new appeal would make the fourth time the case has been heard by the 7th Circuit.

In their request to have the case heard by the federal appeals court, Corcoran’s attorneys wrote that because the case involves the death penalty they should be allowed to make their case.

Corcoran’s attorneys again will argue that there were errors in how Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull sentenced Corcoran – specifically that she improperly considered factors against Corcoran in sentencing him and that she failed to consider specific factors in his favor, according to court documents.

Corcoran shot and killed his brother, James Corcoran, 30; his sister’s fiancé, Robert Scott Turner, 32; and two of his brother’s friends, Timothy G. Bricker, 30, and Douglas A. Stillwell, 30, at a Bayer Avenue home in July 1997.

Since his incarceration, Corcoran has bragged about killing his parents with a shotgun in Steuben County in 1992 – a crime for which he was charged and acquitted.

The state of Indiana can request the death penalty if a defendant is found to have committed murder with at least one aggravating circumstance, such as the age of the victim, multiple victims, while committing another crime or killing a law enforcement officer.

In Corcoran’s case, Gull found that one of the aggravating circumstances existed, specifically the multiple victims

But when she sentenced Corcoran to death, she noted a number of factors against him – the innocence of the victims, the heinousness of the crime and the likelihood Corcoran would kill again.

She also noted some factors to be considered in his favor but gave them less weight than what she considered against him.

In 2000, Gull rewrote her sentencing order, carefully explaining what she considered and what she did not. The order reaffirmed the death penalty, and it has been held up by the Indiana Supreme Court.

DeGuilio ruled the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Gull’s order was not unreasonable, nor did Corcoran show the trial court violated his federally secured rights, according to court documents.

But in their request for the case to go before the federal court of appeals, Corcoran’s attorneys argued that the 7th Circuit never answered the question of whether Gull improperly considered aggravating circumstances and should further consider whether she considered enough factors in his favor, according to court documents.

The back-and-forth nature of the case in different levels of the judicial system has continued since Corcoran was convicted and sentenced in 1999.