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Suspect in Brooklyn Detectives' Shootings Arraigned on Murder Charges

NEW YORK (AP) - Slumped in a wheelchair in a courtroom packed with mourning police officers, the man accused of slaying two veteran detectives with one of their pistols pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges Monday afternoon.

The Brooklyn district attorney's office could not seek the death penalty for Marlon Legere, 28, because of a June ruling by New York's highest court that found a key element of the state's death penalty law was unconstitutional, prosecutor Kenneth Taub said.

Outside the courtroom in downtown Brooklyn, police union officials said the killing of Detectives Robert Parker, 43, and Patrick Rafferty, 39, cried out for the death penalty, and they called on the Legislature to amend the law to allow it.

"The death penalty should have been in place," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. "We have to fix that problem."

Detectives' Endowment Association vice president Victor Cipullo said the death penalty could have acted as a deterrent to the slaying. "These officers could be alive today if there was a death penalty in place," he said.

A spokeswoman for Gov. George Pataki said death penalty legislation, which has passed the Senate but not the Assembly, could apply retroactively in pending cases including Legere's if district attorneys seek the punishment. Legere's court-appointed attorney, Wayne Bodden, said he did not believe a new law could apply to his case.

At the time of the killing, Legere was wanted for questioning about a relatively minor May incident in which his mother said he broke a window in her house and used her car without permission. Legere's mother said Sunday that her son had probably shot Rafferty and Parker because he was afraid of being arrested.

Legere was ordered held without bail after Taub described what he called "overwhelming" evidence against him and Legere's court-appointed attorney said he would not ask for the suspect to be released.

Police and prosecutors say Parker and Rafferty were trying to stop Legere from stealing his mother's car Friday night when he wrested away Parker's gun and opened fire, fatally wounding the two detectives.

Rafferty struck Legere with a single bullet in both feet, and Legere fled in a carjacked minivan and was arrested on a second-floor landing outside a friend's home nearby, police said.

Taub said eyewitnesses and evidence including Parker's 9mm pistol, which was found behind the building where Legere was arrested, meant certain conviction for Legere. Ballistics tests show Rafferty and Parker were hit in the chest and legs by seven shots from the 9mm Glock, police said Monday.

"I cannot imagine any circumstance whatsoever that will not result in the defendant being convicted of first-degree murder and spending the rest of his life in prison," Taub said.

Bodden said Legere understood the charges against him and had complained that he had not been fed during his stay at Brookdale Hospital, where he had been held since his arrest. Legere also complained that his handcuffs were too tight, provoking angry mutters from dozens of police in dress uniform and plainclothes detectives who filled the courtroom's wooden benches, their badges banded in black.

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