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October 7, 2011

Judge to decide if Wilson can retract his guilty plea

Cleveland--The man accused of murdering a woman in 1982 and trying to kill her ex-girlfriend after raping her was back in court September 30 for a hearing on his attempt to retract his guilty plea.

Richard A. Wilson, who had pleaded guilty to 16 charges stemming from the murder of Mary Ann Finegan and the rape of her friend, filed a pro se motion in August to change his plea to not guilty. Pro se means that he acted on his own, instead of going through his attorneys.

Common Pleas Judge Brian Corrigan assigned him two new attorneys on August 24, John Gibbons and Rufus Sims. Sims defended serial killer Anthony Sowell, who was sentenced to death after being convicted in July on 83 counts.

Corrigan is expected to decide whether he will allow Wilson to change his plea on October 7, two days after this issue goes to press.

Over the course of the month, Corrigan approved DNA testing and psychological evaluations in the case. Wilsonís fate may hinge on whether his DNA matches evidence from the crime in this new test, as it did in 2010.

Potential jurors in the case, whose involvement was mooted by the earlier guilty plea, indicated in polling that they were likely to recommend the death penalty in the case, had they convicted Wilson.

The plea agreement would have restricted sentencing to 1982 levels, which would have meant 30 years to life in prison for the 58-year-old, who faces two counts of aggravated murder, six of kidnapping, four of aggravated robbery, attempted rape, rape and two of attempted aggravated murder.

Wilson was due to be released from a prison near Pittsburgh last year when the Cleveland Police Cold Case Unit matched his DNA to evidence collected after Finegan and her former girlfriend were abducted and subjected to a night of horror. He was extradited to Ohio to face charges.

Finegan was sitting in her truck on a June night in 1982, talking to her ex-girlfriend near Isis, a popular Warehouse District lesbian bar at the time. When she went to pull the truck into a closer parking spot so the women could go to the bar, a man opened the passenger door, pointed a gun at her companion and told Finegan to drive or he would kill her.

He directed them to an isolated area of the industrial Flats near the Cuyahoga River, below Tremont. He told the women to get out of the truck and remove their pants, and they balked. He said he would count to three and then shot Finegan, killing her instantly. He then raped her friend, shot her and left her for dead. She refused to lose consciousness, however, and was found 14 hours later by a security guard.

The Cleveland LGBT Centerís hate crime reporting program was named for Finegan.

An extended report on the 1982 crime and the survivorís recollections of it is online at www.gaypeopleschronicle.com/stories10/february/0226101.htm.

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