Convicted Killer Has Chance for Freedom

Image 6-27-16 at 8.34 AMFRANKLIN, Pa. (EYT) – It’s been more than two decades since Michael P. Foust was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without parole.

After a pair of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, Foust has a chance at freedom.

According to court documents, on November 22, 1993, 17-year-old Michael P. Foust shot and killed 33-year-old Russell Rice, Sr., and 36-year-old Darla K. Bump. He was charged as an adult and convicted of the murders on June 30, 1994.

Court documents indicate that in the early morning hours of November 22, 1993, appellant, Michael Foust and Kevin Zenker (a.k.a. Krazy) borrowed a friend’s car and drove from Oil City, Pa., to the residence of Donald Foust, the appellant’s father. While at the Foust residence, Michael Foust stole his father’s loaded 9 mm handgun and several extra bullets. Thereafter, with Michael Foust at the wheel and the gun tucked between the seat, the pair returned to Oil City.

On the return trip, Foust passed the residence of the victims, 36-year-old Darla Bump of Franklin and 33-year-old Russell Rice of Kennerdell. On the initial pass, Zenker fired the 9 mm pistol out the passenger window at Bump’s dog. Curious whether Zenker had hit the animal, Foust turned the car around and passed the house again.

At this time, Bump’s daughter informed Rice and Bump that the car belonged to Rice’s nephew, Kevin Seigworth. Rice and Bump pulled out of the driveway and followed who they thought was Rice’s nephew.

After evading the victims for approximately four miles, Foust grabbed the gun he had stolen from his father, slowed the car to a stop, and jumped out. The victim’s car stopped. As Rice was emerging from his car unarmed, Foust approached the victim’s vehicle and opened fire. After fatally shooting Rice four times, Foust unloaded the rest of his magazine into Bump as she remained seat belted into the passenger seat.

According to a previous news account, a passing motorist in Sugarcreek spotted the parked car on a dirt road at about 4:30 a.m., according to Pa. State Trooper John Ochs. The motorist called police because the motor was running, the driver’s side door was open, and there were bullet holes in the windshield.

At the time of her death, Bump was the mother of five children, ranging in age from 20 years to one. Russell, Jr., called Rusty, was one-year-old and the child of the couple.

In another news account then, Foust admitted he shot the couple, but he insisted that he fired the gun out of fear for his life because he believed Rice was pointing a weapon at him.

Foust also said he didn’t know Bump was in the passenger seat of Rice’s vehicle until he had fired off all the fatal shots.

According to online court documents, Foust is currently serving his sentence in the state prison in Albion, Pa., and he is scheduled to be re-sentenced at 9:00 a.m., on Tuesday, July 5, in front of Senior Judge H. William White, who presided over the trial in 1994.

Foust has fought his case over the years, but every appeal was denied; however, the higher court rulings have created a chance for Foust, and on May 12, his motion for Post Conviction Collateral Relief was granted by Judge White on the grounds that his life sentence without parole violated the 8th Amendment, and his sentence was vacated.

6:24:16 marie veonRetired Venango County District Attorney Marie T. Veon (pictured on right) – the prosecutor who tried the case – will handle the re-sentencing.

“I am pleased the jurors returned the verdicts they did,” Veon said, after the verdicts were delivered on June 25, 1994.

Franklin attorney Pamela R. Logsdon Sibley was appointed by the court to represent Foust.

A 2012 ruling by the United States Supreme Court opened the door for the re-sentencing.

According to Wikipedia, in Miller v. Alabama (2012) was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders.

The ruling extended beyond the Graham v. Florida (2010) case, which had ruled juvenile life without parole sentences unconstitutional for crimes excluding murder.

Earlier this year, in Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016), the Supreme Court determined that Miller v. Alabama must be applied retroactively.

The petitioner, Henry Montgomery, has been in prison since 1963 for a murder he committed at the age of 17.

The Court said that states could undertake re-sentencing, or offer parole to inmates sentenced to life as minors.

Up to 2,300 cases nationwide may be affected by the ruling.

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