JURORS BEGIN DELIBERATING ROLE OF SIMMONS IN PRIESTS' SLAYINGS - The Buffalo News

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JURORS BEGIN DELIBERATING ROLE OF SIMMONS IN PRIESTS' SLAYINGS

Twelve jurors began consider ing this afternoon two starkly dif ferent portraits of Theodore Sim mons as they deliberated his role in the slayings of two Buffalo priests early last year.

The State Supreme Court jury of eight men and four women be gan deliberations about 1:30 p.m., after listening to 2 1/2 hours of legal explanations from Justice Freder ick M. Marshall and lunching to gether for the first time in the 2-week-old trial.

Marshall told the jurors they must decide whether Simmons had a criminal "intent" when he and Milton Jones confronted the Rev. A. Joseph Bissonette and Monsignor David P. Herlihy dur ing separate church robberies last year. The judge told the jurors they could assess Simmons' intentions by reviewing evidence of "what he said" and did before and after each of the attacks. In assessing Simmons' assertion that Jones threatened him with physical harm to help in both at tacks, the judge told the jurors they had to decide whether Sim mons could have reasonably re sisted such alleged threats and whether he had the opportunity to escape from Jones.

The judge told the jury to reject the duress claims of Simmons if it concludes he either intentionally or recklessly put himself into a criminally compromising situa tion. Remarks that Simmons made to police following his arrest can be considered if the jury decides he willingly spoke to police, the judge added. In closing summations Tues day, Simmons' lawyers said he had acted under duress and that Jones forced him to rob the churches, culminating in the deaths of the two clerics.

Prosecuting attorneys claimed Simmons was a willing participant in the stabbing deaths, and brand ed Simmons a liar who convicted himself by fumbling while trying to talk his way out of murder charges shortly after his arrest. The jury is considering consid er second-degree murder, first-de gree manslaughter, robbery and weapons charges. Although Simmons didn't testi fy, his lawyers, George R. Blair Jr. and J. Glenn Davis, argued that his denials to police about com plicity in the slayings and his claims that Jones forced him to participate make him a witness to the crimes and not a participant.

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