Bennett still facing death penalty

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 22, 2005

A Uniontown man charged with a 2004 double-murder will not receive any different treatment from the new District Attorney serving Perry County.

“There is no change in our plans for prosecution,” said assistant DA Mickey Avery, speaking for newly inaugurated Perry County DA Michael Jackson, sworn in last week. “I can’t speak for our strategy in court at this time, but I can tell you we will still be seeking the death penalty.”

The defendant in the case is Charlie Bennett of Uniontown. Bennett is charged with the murders of Lawrence Alvin Smith and Kenneth Dixie in Uniontown in June of last year, a crime which is punishable by death by lethal injection.

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The case drew statewide attention when it was revealed that a blunder in the prison system’s paperwork allowed Bennett to walk free long before a sentence for bank robbery had expired.

Avery asserted Friday that the new face in the DA’s chair would mean little in the case’s execution. “I have worked here for 11 years, and the staff here is unchanged,” he said. “We do have a new DA, but we do not have a new office.”

Although a trial date is forthcoming, Avery stated that a “pending mental evaluation” has yet to be completed to determine Bennett’s competency to stand trial. Without the finished evaluation from state physicians, no trial date can be set.

Avery also added that it was “too early to speculate” on whether any kind of plea offer might be made to the defendant.

Although the placement of Bennett back into federal custody for his bank robbery conviction was a consideration in the case’s initial few weeks, Bennett remains incarcerated at the Perry County Jail in Marion. According to Avery, as a defendant in a capital case he is prohibited from posting bond.

Bennett is represented by court-appointed attorney George Jones III of Selma, who was unavailable for comment as of press time.