HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A three-judge panel on Monday rejected the latest appeal of a Connecticut man who was once on death row for ordering the 1999 killings of a woman and her 8-year-old son because the boy was going to testify against him.
Three judges of the state Appellate Court unanimously upheld a lower court ruling against former Bridgeport drug dealer Russell Peeler Jr., who was resentenced to life in prison last year after Connecticut abolished the death penalty.
Peeler claimed a lower court judge made several wrong decisions in his habeas corpus appeal of his murder convictions, including ruling that prosecutors did not violate the law by failing to disclose recordings of a witness and informant to the defense before trial. The three judges said the state was not required to release those recordings.
Peeler's lawyer, Lisa Steele, said she's disappointed with the ruling. She said she hadn't yet talked with Peeler about the decision, but an appeal to the state Supreme Court is likely.
Authorities said Peeler had his younger brother, Adrian Peeler, fatally shoot Karen Clarke and her son, B.J. Brown, in their Bridgeport home. B.J. was going to testify against Russell Peeler in the 1997 killing of Clarke's boyfriend, Rudolph Snead Jr. Adrian Peeler is serving a 25-year prison sentence.
Peeler and Snead were partners in a large-scale drug ring that sold crack cocaine in Bridgeport and had a falling out, according to court documents. Several months before Snead was killed, Peeler shot and wounded Snead while Snead was driving with his son and B.J. in his car, police said. The boys weren't hurt.
Peeler is serving a 105-year prison sentence for Snead's death. Last July, he was resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release for the killings of B.J. and his mother, in response to the state Supreme Court abolishing the death penalty in 2015.
Peeler also alleged in his appeal that the lower court judge, Samuel Sferrazza, was wrong in ruling that Peeler's rights were not violated by a faster-than-usual trial schedule that didn't allow his lawyers adequate time to prepare. Peeler also questioned Sferrazza's rulings denying Peeler's bid to represent himself in the appeal and concluding that Peeler's appellate lawyer provided effective assistance of counsel.