WILKES-BARRE — The attorneys for a convicted killer accused of beating and stabbing to death a correctional officer from Nanticoke want hundreds of “gruesome” photographs banned at trial.
Jessie Con-ui, 39, is expected to stand trial next year for the murder of Eric Williams at U.S. Penitentiary Canaan in 2013. Williams, 34, was ambushed by Con-ui atop a prison stairwell, kicked to the bottom and pinned to the ground, where he was stabbed dozens of times with a homemade weapon, prosecutors say.
Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Con-ui’s attorneys, in a motion filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, seek to prohibit the use of 547 crime scene photographs from previous crimes in which Con-ui participated that prosecutors believe illustrate Con-ui’s penchant for violence and support their argument the killer could someday strike again.
Con-ui was at Canaan serving an 11-year prison sentence stemming from a 2003 guilty plea for his role in a drug ring run by the New Mexican Mafia gang. Following that sentence, he was set to begin serving a life behind bars after pleading guilty in 2008 to first-degree murder in Arizona.
In that case, Con-ui baited friend and fellow gang member Carlos Garcia into meeting him at a Phoenix laundromat, according to court documents. There, two men ambushed and shot Garcia, who managed to slip away before one of the men fired four rounds into his head.
Court documents claim Con-ui also agreed to or participated in several separate, uncharged incidents while incarcerated between 1999 and 2010, including stabbing another inmate with a homemade knife and assaulting another inmate with a food tray.
Con-ui’s attorneys argue the photographs are more than a decade old and would prejudice jurors due to their “gruesome and inflammatory” nature.
“It should go without saying that 547 photographs is an excessive number,” attorneys James Swetz, Mark Fleming and David Ruhnke argue in the motion. “Moreover, the danger is clear and present, as in much of the way the government proposes to proceed in this case, that the jury will consider the documents for an improper purpose, namely that Mr. Con-ui is a violent person who will present a future danger to those around him.”
A judge had not immediately ruled on the motion.
Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL