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Pa. Supreme Court rejects death-penalty appeal

A unanimous Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the appeal by Ronald Gibson, 43, convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the Christmas Eve 1990 killings of off-duty Philadelphia Police Officer Frederick Dukes and Vernae Nixon during the botched robbery of a Southwest Philadelphia bar.

A unanimous Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the appeal by Ronald Gibson, 43, convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the Christmas Eve 1990 killings of off-duty Philadelphia Police Officer Frederick Dukes and Vernae Nixon during the botched robbery of a Southwest Philadelphia bar.

In a 30-page opinion by Justice Thomas G. Saylor, the high court ruled that additional evidence about Gibson's life history, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental illness was not enough to undermine the jury's verdict and death sentence. The appeal filed under the state's Post-Conviction Relief Act contended Gibson's trial lawyer was ineffective for failing to present the evidence during the penalty phase.

According to trial testimony, Gibson and accomplice Gregory Tancemore, then 24, went into Woody's Playhouse Bar at 57th Street and Woodland Avenue to rob patrons. A struggle ensued with a bouncer, and Dukes, 45, drew his weapon but was shot and killed. Nixon, 31, a patron, was also killed in the gunfire. Tancemore killed himself a few days later during a standoff with police. - Joseph A. Slobodzian

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