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Bentleyville man appeals double-murder conviction

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Thursday, April 4, 2013, 2:01 a.m.
 

A Bentleyville man is asking the state Supreme Court to review his conviction last year for the murders of his former girlfriend and a Pittsburgh man.

A public defender for Terrance Graham filed a petition asking for re-argument in his case, said Washington County Assistant District Attorney Jerry Moschetta, who is handling the appeal request.

Deputy prosecutors Mike Lucas and Chad Schneider were assigned to the case last year when a jury convicted Graham on June 14 on two counts of first-degree murder.

Graham is serving two consecutive life prison sentences with no chance for parole.

Graham additionally was sentenced to six to 12 months in prison for abuse of a corpse and six to 12 months in prison for tampering with evidence. Those sentences are consecutive to the murder sentences.

Graham, 36, killed Lynna Ronell Flippen, 25, of Ellsworth, and Ernest Yarbough Jr., 31, of Wilkinsburg. Each had been shot in the head and upper body.

Graham was arrested May 13, 2010, after the victims' bodies were found in Yarbough's car on rural Butsko Road in Fallowfield Township.

State police had responded earlier that morning to a 911 call from Flippen, who said someone was trying to enter her Spruce Street home.

Graham and Flippen had been involved in a custody dispute over their son, Esau, then 4, investigators said.

Moschetta said the Superior Court has already denied Graham's “one and only appeal guaranteed as per his rights.”

He called the latest appeal customary for someone serving a life sentence for murder.

The Supreme Court does not have to hear the case, and to receive a new trial, Graham's attorney must prove that the law has changed since his conviction or that the trial court made glaring errors.

The Superior Court already affirmed the decisions made and sentences imposed by trial Judge Paul Pozonsky, who has since retired.

The current attempts to gain a new trial claim the prosecution failed to introduce into evidence the gun used in the murders, Pozonsky's decision not to throw out Graham's statements to police, the judge allowing testimony about Flippen's protection-from-abuse cases involving Graham in 2007 through 2010, and the admission into evidence photographs of the deceased victims.

“We felt the issues which were raised lack merit, and the Superior Court affirmed the judgment based on the decision written by Judge Pozonsky,” Moschetta said.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at cbuckley@tribweb.com or 724-684-2642.

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