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Real name: Jeffrey Leonard
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 28, 1983
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: February 3, 1963
Victim profile: Esther Stewart (consignment shop owner)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on December 2, 1983

United States Court of Appeals
For the Sixth Circuit


opinion 01-6359/6462

order 01-6359/6462


SLAUGHTER, JAMES EARL, DOB 2-3-63, was sentenced to death December 2, 1983 in Jefferson County for the stabbing death of Ester Stewart, a Louisville, Kentucky woman.

On the afternoon of January 28, 1983 Slaughter entered a clothing store with the intent to rob the store. In the process of the robbery he stabbed and killed the owner. Police arrested Slaughter the next day.


James Earl Slaughter robbed and executed the victim by stabbing her multiple times in the chest as she worked at a used clothing store in Jefferson County in 1983. The victim's blood was found on his clothes. The killer confessed to the execution to a fellow inmate.


Ester Stewart



Supreme Court rejects appeal in Ky. murder case

Associated Press

January 23, 2009

A former Kentucky death row inmate convicted under an alias lost another appeal Thursday in his ongoing efforts to have his conviction overturned.

The Kentucky Supreme Court denied the appeal from Jeffrey Leonard, a convicted murderer who wants justices to reconsider his conviction based on a claim of ineffective counsel, in part because his lawyer didn't know his real name. Leonard was convicted under the pseudonym James Earl Slaughter.

The Supreme Court had denied a motion in 2007 to overturn Leonard's conviction on his assertion that his defense attorney had not fully investigated the case in order to defend him. Justice Mary Noble, writing for a unanimous court, declined to reopen the issue.

Allison Martin, spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, said prosecutors were pleased with the high court's ruling. Leonard's defense attorneys with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy did not immediately return calls Thursday seeking comment.

Leonard, a brain-damaged Louisville man, spent nearly 25 years on Kentucky's death row for the 1983 murder of Esther Stewart, who owned a consignment store in Louisville. Before leaving office in 2007, former Gov. Ernie Fletcher commuted Leonard's sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In commuting Leonard's death sentence, Fletcher cited concerns about whether his lawyer had been ineffective.

Leonard was originally represented by former Louisville attorney Ferdinand "Fred" Radolovich, who surrendered his law license after being charged with perjury for claiming he had handled four death penalty cases before Leonard's. Investigators found that he actually had no experience as a lead attorney in a capital murder case.



Appeals court upholds death sentence in slaying of consignment shop owner

Lawyer's inaction was challenged

Associated Press

June 14, 2006

A federal appeals court overturned a decision to give a new sentencing hearing to a Kentucky death row inmate, ruling the lawyer in the Louisville case acted reasonably during the initial trial.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati voted 2-1 that the lawyer for James Earl Slaughter, 43, did not have an obligation to research his client's family history.

Slaughter was sentenced to death for the January 1983 murder of Esther Stewart, who owned "The Clothes Rack" consignment store in Louisville.

U.S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman ruled in 2001 that Slaughter should get a new sentencing hearing because his trial lawyer, Fred Radolovich, failed to find and interview many of Slaughter's family members or have them testify.

Appeals judges Danny Boggs and Alice Batchelder found Radolovich's performance "deficient," but not so bad that it unfairly affected the jury's decision.

In a dissent, Judge R. Guy Cole said there was a "reasonable probability" that Slaughter would have been sentenced to life in prison if Radolovich had done a better job during the sentencing phase.

"There is clearly a reasonable probability that the jury would have sentenced Slaughter to life imprisonment had it been presented with the evidence that was presented" on appeal, Cole wrote.

Coffman found that Radolovich had no experience with death-penalty cases and was later indicted for perjury for testifying that he had handled several cases in New York. The status of the perjury case against Radolovich was not immediately available yesterday.

In granting Slaughter a hearing, Coffman ruled that Radolovich's failure to thoroughly investigate Slaughter's background and find family members to testify gave a 1-sided picture of the inmate to jurors.

"They saw James Earl Slaughter, in many senses, the man who never was, standing alone and defiant. Slaughter was a man (who) testified recklessly; a man who apparently was so unloved and so uncared for that not a single individual, relative or friend would vouch for him, though his life hung in the balance," Coffman wrote.

Slaughter's lawyers, Kathleen Schmidt of Shepherdsville and assistant public defender Marguerite Thomas of Frankfort, did not immediately return calls yesterday.



James Earl Slaughter



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