- Associated Press - Saturday, January 25, 2020

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A judge has thrown out the death sentence imposed on a Philadelphia man in one of two 1990 killings and ordered a new trial in the second slaying.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker granted a defense petition to remove 49-year-old Derrick Ragan from death row in the slaying of another man following a 1990 fight over who could use a basketball court at a west Philadelphia playground.

Ragan remains convicted of first-degree murder and related offenses and faces a life term without possibility of parole in the shooting death of 22-year-old Darren Brown. Prosecutors said he shot Brown 13 times following a June 26, 1990, argument over who could use a basketball court at the Overbook playground.

The judge earlier this month threw out Ragan’s conviction in the June 15, 1990, shooting death of 22-year-old Anthony Thomas in west Philadelphia.

Defense attorneys argued that Ragan’s lawyers in the 1991 trial were unaware that the key prosecution witness had been granted immunity. Prosecutors said last month that the failure to disclose the immunity grant was unintentional but agreed that Ragan should receive a new trial.

The earlier murder conviction in the slaying of Thomas was the sole aggravating circumstance cited by prosecutors in asking a jury to sentence Ragan to death in Brown’s murder.

Paul George, assistant supervisor of the prosecutor’s law division, earlier sought to give Ragan a chance of parole in asking the judge to allow him to plead guilty to third-degree murder in both homicides and receive a 35- to 70-year sentence, saying the defendant had turned his life around.

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