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Drug Kingpin Risks Death Penalty Under Federal Law

April 3, 1991

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) _ A drug kingpin today stood to become the first person sentenced to death under a 1988 federal law.

A federal jury Tuesday convicted David Ronald Chandler, 37, of running a marijuana ring in Alabama and Georgia and protecting the operation by soliciting at least one murder and the disappearance of two other people.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Howell Davis today told jurors there was enough aggravating circumstances for them to recommend the death sentence.

But defense attorney Drew Redden argued that the death sentence was not merited in this case because Chandler had no prior felony convictions.

The jury was expected to start its deliberations in the penalty phase of the trial late today or early Thursday.

Chandler could instead receive life in prison without parole and fines totaling $4 million.

Congress in 1988 passed a law permitting capital punishment when drug activity results in an intentional killing. No one has received the death penalty under the law.

The jury deliberated four hours in convicting Chandler. Redden said he will ask for a new trial.

Chandler was accused of offering $500 to Charles Ray Jarrell to kill Marlin Earl Shuler, who was described as a member of Chandler’s operation who became an informer.

Jarrell testified he shot Shuler in the back and neck at a pond in 1990 but never collected the money.

Chandler also was convicted of involvement in the disappearances last fall of Patrick Burrows and Jeffery Scot McFry. Chandler was said to have believed the men were stealing marijuana from his fields.

Prosecutors believe Burrows and McFry were killed, but their bodies have not been found.

The government said the drug ring at one time grew more than 5,000 marijuana plants on 110 fields in Alabama and Georgia.