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Posted December 23, 2004 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Killer of city officer granted stay

By Garren Shipley -- Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER -- A federal court has indefinitely postponed the execution of a man convicted of killing a Winchester police officer.

Edward Bell, a Jamaican national, was set to die at the Greensville Correction Facility in Jarratt on Jan. 7. He was found guilty in 2001 of the October 1999 murder of Winchester police Sgt. Ricky L. Timbrook.

But attorneys won a stay from a federal court in Roanoke, preventing the state from carrying out the sentence.

“Pursuant to McFarland v. Scott, ‚” and for good cause show, petitioner’s motion for stay of execution is granted,” wrote U.S. District Judge James Jones, in an order signed Thursday afternoon in Abingdon.

The commonwealth didn’t oppose the initial grant of a stay of execution, according to court filings, since it’s a matter of federal statute and established case law that the condemned have their sentences postponed while they ask the federal courts to review their cases.

“Under Dubois v. Netherland, Bell is entitled to a stay of execution while he litigates a federal habeas corpus petition,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Katherine Baldwin wrote in her filing on behalf of the state.
But the court should set a quick deadline for Bell’s lawyers to complete their work and present it to the court, she added.

“This court should order Bell to file his petition promptly within 30 days of entry of a stay of execution,” Baldwin wrote. “There is no reason a petition cannot be filed in this time.”

But one of Bell’s lawyers, Jonathan Sheldon, of Arlington, said Thursday that federal law gives his client a full year after a stay to file his habeas corpus petition. And there’s a lot to investigate in this case that hasn’t been fully woven together for a judge to see from either the trial or state appellate process.

Sheldon also said he intended to ask the judge not to issue a deadline before the courts closed for Christmas.

Bell has exhausted all of his appeals at the state level. The Virginia Supreme Court declined to re-hear an appeal of the conviction on the grounds, among others, that Bell isn’t mentally competent to be executed.

Kilgore’s office couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday, but Assistant Winchester Commonwealth’s Attorney Mark Abrams said that the court’s action is no surprise.

“It’s not unexpected,” he said.

Bell, 40, was found guilty of capital murder for shooting Timbrook shortly before midnight on Oct. 29, 1999, between 301 and 303 E. Piccadilly St. during a foot chase.

Setting an execution date before Bell even began his federal appellate process was unnecessary and unfair to the family and friends of Timbrook, Sheldon said.

“Most states don’t ask for an execution date at this point,” he said. Concern for the convicted aside, it gives the victim’s families false hope that they‚’ll have closure.

“I hope someone from the attorney general’s office has explained that to the [victim‚’s family],” he said. ‚”[That] doesn’t mean that I want Eddie Bell executed.”

Sheldon said earlier Thursday that he was hopeful the stay would be issued before Jan. 3. The state requires condemned inmates to be taken from death row at Sussex I State Prison in Waverly to the Greensville facility four days before the sentence is to be carried out.

The case is Bell v. True., 7:04cv752.

* Contact Garren Shipley at gshipley@nvdaily.com

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