Thirteen years on death row could end without execution for an Evansville man.
Paul McManus was convicted of killing his wife and two kids in 2001, but now a federal appeals court overturns his conviction and sentence.
He could walk free because of his mental state at trial 13 years ago. His defense attorney, Genn Grampp clearly remembers his demeanor, feeling McManus was incapable of standing trial. He says Wednesday’s ruling justifies what he says should have happened in the first place.
February 26th, 2001, a toddler, eight-year-old and their mother are murdered in a neighborhood north of Evansville.
After the murder, he drove to the twin bridges and jumped from the top in a suicide attempt, but he was pulled from the frigid February waters and went on trial a year later, facing the death penalty.
Grampp says, “there wasn’t any question that he did it,” but he believes he didn’t deserve to be executed.
“He became a mess during that trial, and he really did not know what was going on,” says Grampp. “He had a panic attack after we selected the jury, and during the first day of evidence, he had a panic attack.”
Grampp remembers McManus being taken out of the courtroom on a stretcher, he “went to the hospital a couple times; they changed his medication unbeknownst to us.”
Despite repeated requests for a mistrial, Grampp says the judge continued and McManus was convicted and sentenced to death.
A decision Grampp feels was wrong. “There was no question in my mind that he was impaired to the point he could not assist his council, could not make decisions.”
It’s because of that, what Grampp says was a drug-induced stupor, A U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the 13 year-old decision Wednesday.
Vanderburgh County Prosecuting Attorney, Nick Hermann, didn’t try the case in 2001, but he reacts today in “a little bit of a surprise, just that it came out and what it was, but you know, its part of the business.”
Grampp believe justice is now being served. “It might not make a lot of people happy, but its the right decision taking the facts into account,” he says.
But McManus isn’t a free man just yet. There will be appeals, and potentially a new trial in Vanderburgh Co. “There was a lot of strong evidence in it,” says Hermann, “We wouldn’t hesitate in the slightest to try it again if it came to that.”
A plea agreement is also a possible outcome, but the prosecution says it needs time to review.
“It’s going to be a matter of getting the case and talking to all the parties involved, and determine where we are and how to move forward from there,” adds Hermann.
The Indiana Attorney General’s office is now reviewing the ruling and will decide in the next 15 days whether to appeal to the U.S Supreme Court.