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Last updated 2:10AM ET
March 5, 2021
AG Removes Prosecutor from Capital Murder Case
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - Attorney General Troy King said Wednesday he had stripped a capital murder case from a local prosecutor who gave testimony that helped a condemned inmate win a new sentencing hearing to get his death penalty lifted.

King said Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens should not have spoken on behalf of LaSamuel Gamble, who was convicted along with Marcus Presley of killing two people during a pawn shop robbery more than 11 years ago.

Originally condemned to die, Gamble's sentence was ordered reduced after Owens testified it would be unfair to execute him since Presley, the triggerman, had his death penalty reduced under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

"We will perform the duty which the district attorney has shirked, and will appeal to keep this man, whose hands are stained with the blood of innocents, on death row," King said in a statement.

Owens, a veteran prosecutor, is a Republican like King but supported the Democratic nominee who ran against King for attorney general last year. Owens did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. Neither did attorneys for Gamble.

Presley was the triggerman in the slayings, committed when he was 16, and he got off death row following a Supreme Court decision in 2005 that barred capital punishment for anyone under the age of 18.

Owens testified last year that, in the name of fairness, Gamble shouldn't face the death penalty if Presley would not. Shelby County Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner agreed last week and ordered a new sentencing hearing for Gamble. Joiner, a Republican, wrote: "It is the re-sentencing of Presley to a non-death sentence that makes Gamble's sentence of death constitutionally unfair."

King previously took a similar position in the case. In a brief backed by other states that supported capital punishment for juveniles, King told the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004 that putting only Gamble to death for the murders would be a "bizarre result" since he didn't kill anyone.

In an interview, King said the odd situation didn't mean Gamble should be off death row. "Two wrongs don't make a right," he said.

Presley and Gamble originally were sentenced to death for the murders of John Burleson and Janice Littleton, who were shot execution-style during a robbery at John's 280 Pawn Shop on July 25, 1996. Presley was the triggerman, but Alabama law allows for the execution of accomplices in capital crimes.

King called it "incredible and outrageous" for Owens to speak on behalf of Gamble, who was 19 at the time of the murders. King said he would try to have Gamble's death penalty reinstated since Owens "acted on the side of the criminal."

Owens, the longtime prosecutor in an overwhelmingly Republican County, last year was among 27 Alabama district attorneys who endorsed Democrat John Tyson Jr. over King, a GOP appointee who was seeking election to his first full term. King denied that Owens' endorsement had anything to do with his office taking over the Gamble case.

"This has nothing to do with politics. This has everything to do with standing up for a family ... that is crying out for justice," he said.

Presley is now 27, and Gamble is 29. Joiner also ruled that Gamble's lawyers were ineffective during his trial because they failed to call witnesses who could have talked about his childhood of abuse and neglect.

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