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Federal judge denies mass killer Corcoran's appeal

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 11:33 pm

A federal judge has ruled against convicted Fort Wayne killer Joseph Corcoran's latest appeal of his death penalty sentence.

U.S. District Court Northern District South Bend Division Judge Jon E. DeGuilio made the ruling Jan. 10 in Corcoran's case. Corcoran was found guilty of four counts of murder and statutory aggravating circumstance in multiple murders in the July 1997 shooting deaths of his brother Jim, along with his sister's fiancÚ, Scott Turner, and Timothy Bricker, all at close range in the Bayer Avenue home where Corcoran lived with his brother, his sister and her fiancÚ. The fourth victim, Doug Stillwell, tried to run, but Corcoran chased him into the kitchen and shot him in the head with a rifle, according to court documents.

Corcoran, who was 22 at the time of the murders, said he was under stress because his sister's pending marriage would require him to move out of the home, that he thought the men were talking about him and that he only intended to frighten them, according to court documents.

Corcoran, whose attorneys have argued he is mentally ill, was originally scheduled to be executed in 2005. He had waived his right to appeal in 2003, but later filed one that claimed various errors were made during the sentencing phase and that Indiana's statute for capital punishment was unconstitutional, among other things.

Corcoran's case has gone before the Indiana Supreme Court five times, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals three times and the U.S. Supreme Court twice. It was before the U.S. District Court a second time. The last two items at issue were Corcoran's contention that the trial judge, Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull, hadn't considered mitigating evidence and that the death penalty is unconstitutional because it does not distinguish between circumstances that warrant a sentence of death and those that warrant life imprisonment without parole, according to DeGuilio's decision.

DeGuilio denied Corcoran's appeal because the judge said the state Supreme Court concluded that the death penalty statute is constitutional and adequately uses factors to narrow those eligible for death. He also said Corcoran's argument that the court didn't consider six mitigating circumstances were without merit.

In 1992, at age 17, Corcoran was acquitted in Steuben County of the shooting death of his parents, Jack and Kathryn, at their Ball Lake home.