Find a list of your saved stories here

Charlton Heston rant rattled judge; court tosses murder case

1 photo
Save Story

Save stories to read later

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Philadelphia judge's clash with the late actor Charlton Heston has indirectly led a U.S. appeals court to overturn a murder conviction.

The victim's family had created a blog during the 1998 trial that quoted Heston, of "Ben-Hur" and "The Ten Commandments" fame, calling Judge Lisa Richette soft on crime. Heston had called her by the nickname "Let 'em Loose Lisa" during a National Rifle Association speech that year in Philadelphia.

The blog prompted Richette to call the victim's family to her chambers, with the prosecutor and defense lawyer but not the defendant on hand. She suggested that victim Mark Gibson's family had slandered her, but then assured them she would try the case fairly.

She ultimately found defendant Paul McKernan guilty of first-degree murder and sent him to prison for life. McKernan had claimed self-defense in the baseball bat death.

In appeals over two decades, he argued that Richette had bent over backward to appease the Gibson family.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court last week called the late judge's back-room conversation inappropriate and found the defense lawyer ineffective.

"Judge Richette's actions would have caused any competent attorney to seek recusal immediately," Circuit Judge Jane R. Roth wrote in a unanimous three-judge opinion.

Defense lawyer W. Fred Harrison Jr. did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

McKernan, after serving 20 years in prison, will be released unless the Philadelphia District Attorney decides to retry him. The case remains under review, a district attorney's spokesman said.

"Our client is relieved that that the court after nearly 20 years recognizes that he did not receive a fair trial," lawyer Maria Pulzetti of the Federal Community Defender Office, who handled the appeal, told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Richette, who was considered flamboyant, a bit eccentric and something of a bleeding heart, died in 2007. She had attended Yale Law School and was the author of a well-regarded 1969 book on the juvenile justice system called "The Throwaway Children."

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Most recent Entertainment stories



    Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast