He gets off death row

Posted: March 26, 2001

A legal technicality has helped convicted killer William Gribble get off death row.

Last week, Gribble's death sentence was overturned by Common Pleas Judge James A. Lineberger after defense lawyer Ramy I. Djerassi pointed out that Gribble had not been told on the record that he had a right to have a jury decide his fate after he was convicted in 1993 of first-degree murder by Judge Paul Ribner.

Ribner had imposed the death sentence after holding a penalty hearing.

Gribble was found guilty of the gruesome Nov. 11, 1992, slaying of pizza shop owner Eleftherios Eleftheriou, 50.

Djerassi, appointed to handle the latest of Gribble's appeals, argued that the law requires the court record to reflect that the legal rights of an accused are given before a serious trial tactic decision is made.

Gribble's trial counsel had said he advised his client of the jury right, but nothing was said about it at the bar of the court.

"At the time, the judge permitted a waiver of a jury trial without a knowing waiver from the defendant," said Djerassi.

Eleftheriou was lured to co-defendant Kelly O'Donnell's Port Richmond apartment for sex, robbed and beaten to death with a hammer, then dismembered, police said.

O'Donnell's death sentence was previously overturned on the same legal ground by the state Supreme Court.

The high court ordered a new sentencing hearing for O'Donnell. It is scheduled for May.

Djerassi is hoping to win Gribble a new trial. He contends that inadmissible evidence was used at trial.

Gribble had told Homicide Detective Michael Gross that when he arrived at O'Donnell's home on Richmond Street near Clementine, and saw Eleftheriou "all over Kelly, I freaked out."

Gribble said he grabbed a hammer and beat the victim.

Later, he said, he dropped the body in the basement and "I got my saw and started to cut him up."

O'Donnell, 32, a mother of six, told police that she beat Eleftheriou to death and cut up his body by herself. *

|
|
|
|
|