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Robin Huebner, Published January 14 2014

Family outraged by ruling sparing execution of man who killed brother of Kathleen Wrigley

BISMARCK – Former Fargo resident Kathleen Wrigley and her parents are outraged a judge has ruled her brother’s killer will not be executed because he is mentally disabled.

The long death penalty appeal process has been a difficult road for Kathleen, wife of Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, who prosecuted North Dakota’s only federal death penalty case.

Kathleen Wrigley learned Monday night that the death sentence has been vacated against Edward Bracey, who in 1991 shot and killed her only sibling, rookie Philadelphia police officer Daniel “Danny” Boyle.

“The appellate process in death penalty cases is endless and emotional,” Wrigley said. “Today, one judge’s ruling changed what 12 jurors and more than 20 years of litigation upheld. Whatever the outcome of the proceedings, it is true that they lure families back to a place that is dark, sad, and hopeless.”

A statement read by Kathleen Wrigley’s father at a Philadelphia news conference reflected the family’s disappointment in the ruling.

“This is a miscarriage of justice,” said Patrick Boyle, a 35-year-veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department whose son had followed in his footsteps.

“It’s outrageous and mocks all that is right and fair in our system,” he said.

Judge M. Teresa Sarmina based her decision on a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court opinion outlawing as unconstitutional the execution of criminals defined by the state as being “mentally retarded.”

“And, honestly, in the end, after this ruling is digested, our lives will not change at all,” Wrigley said. “We will continue to honor Danny’s life by helping others. In the end, there is no room for self-pity when our family has been abundantly blessed. Our focus will remain with the scholarship fund and the children who play and live and learn at the Officer Daniel Boyle Rec Center. Many have benefitted because Danny lived. His legacy outshines any judicial process.”

Bracey has been on death row since 1992, living in solitary confinement 23 hours a day. His sentence for killing Boyle is now life in prison without parole, allowing him into the general prison population.

In a May 2013 interview with The Forum, Kathleen Wrigley was adamant that his sentence not be reduced.

“That would unearth the peace that I have worked so hard on all these years,” Wrigley said at the time.

According to prosecutors, during another court proceeding in 1998, Bracey’s own attorneys presented three witnesses who testified he was not mentally disabled.

Kathleen Wrigley’s father says it’s been clear all along that Bracey is not mentally impaired.

“This judge’s opinion is an insult to a vulnerable population of mentally disabled individuals – who don’t hurt people, don’t murder,” Patrick Boyle said.

He added, “Using this defense to exonerate the deliberate actions of a criminal is wrong, it’s cheap and it’s cowardly.”

The family has asked Philadelphia prosecutors to appeal the latest ruling for broader consideration by a higher court.

In a news conference held by those prosecutors Tuesday, they said they would consider an appeal but will wait to study the ruling first.

Drew Wrigley prosecuted North Dakota’s only federal death penalty case in 2006-07. Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. of Crookston, Minn., was found guilty of kidnapping and killing University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin and sentenced to death. Just as Bracey did, Rodriguez is appealing the sentence by claiming he is mentally disabled.