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Wrigley awaits news on brother’s killer

Kathleen Wrigley is shown in this May 10 file photo in Fargo. Wrigley has been waiting to learn whether her brother’s killer will remain on Pennsylvania’s death row. (Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service )

By Robin Huebner, Forum News Service

BISMARCK — Nine months after the start of the latest legal appeal from her brother’s killer, Kathleen Wrigley is still waiting to hear whether he will remain on Pennsylvania’s death row.

With a ruling from the judge dangling before them, a snowstorm in Philadelphia last Friday closed the courts and denied Wrigley and her parents in their third attempt to learn convicted murderer Edward Bracey’s fate.

Wrigley has been through several such appeals, including one when her husband and North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, then U.S. attorney for North Dakota, was prosecuting Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. for Dru Sjodin’s abduction and murder.

Bracey’s appeal has been particularly difficult because of delays in issuing the ruling.

“It’s made us feel sad, angry, frustrated, helpless and small,” Kathleen Wrigley said.

Wrigley’s only sibling, Daniel “Danny” Boyle, was gunned down as a rookie Philadelphia police officer during an attempted traffic stop on Feb. 4, 1991.

Bracey’s latest appeal is based on relatively new case law, which states that it is unconstitutional to execute someone who is mentally disabled.

During a weeklong hearing last April, Bracey’s attorneys tried to establish that he is mentally deficient — something the prosecution strongly denies.

The family then sat through the appeal’s closing arguments in late October, hoping for a ruling from Judge Teresa Sarmina that day because no new evidence was presented.

But there wasn’t a ruling.

Another court date was set for Dec. 20, but the day before Wrigley planned to fly to Philadelphia, the judge informed the district attorney’s office that she wasn’t finished writing her opinion.

Then came a Jan. 3 court date and confirmation from the judge that the ruling was ready.

Wrigley boarded a flight to Philadelphia, hoping the third time would be the charm.

But with a snowstorm descending on the East Coast, much of Philadelphia shut down. As the snow fell, attorneys for both sides agreed the ruling should be issued electronically. Five days passed, and they finally got word that it would be emailed “sometime soon.”

It’s not important for Wrigley that Bracey is executed, but that he remains on death row, where he is in solitary confinement 23 hours a day.

She does not want him allowed into the general prison population, where she says he could be heralded as a hero for killing a cop.

As she awaits word, Wrigley does everything she can to keep her spirits up.

“We are happy and optimistic, and prefer to cling to the silver lining,” she said.

She focuses on the nearly 800 young people who have received scholarships through the Officer Daniel Boyle Scholarship Fund.

“His legacy outshines any judicial process,” Wrigley said.