The Commonwealth’s False Case for Death

In order to convince jurors to sentence Ivan to death, the Commonwealth tried to prove that Ivan would be a future danger to society if he were not executed.

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Prosecutor Marsha Garst

During the trial, Edwin Gilkes told jurors that Ivan was involved with “some Russians” in another murder outside a recreation center in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Prosecutor Marsha Garst relied on this testimony in arguing that Ivan was too dangerous to live, because he could “dial up” another hired murder from prison at any time. The argument worked. Jurors feared for their own safety, and quickly sentenced Ivan to death.

After Ivan was sent to death row, investigation revealed that the murder outside the recreation center in Ephrata—which had convinced jurors to sentence Ivan to death—had never even happened. No murder had ever occurred outside the recreation center in Ephrata. Gilkes later admitted he had lied about Ivan’s involvement in a murder in Ephrata, just like he had lied when he testified Ivan was involved in Stephanie’s murder.

Later investigation also revealed that the prosecution had investigated Gilkes’s claim before the trial and before Garst’s argument to jurors, and knew there had been no murder outside the Ephrata recreation center.

Click to hear the truth about the made-up murder.

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Ephrata Recreation Center