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Court Action For Defendants In Basement Captivity Case

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The lawyers for Linda Weston and two male co-defendants were in court today, as their clients begin to face charges in the alleged scheme to hold captive mentally handicapped people, to steal their Social Security checks.

Weston, 51, who had been convicted of murder in 1984 for starving her sister’s boyfriend to death, now faces charges that include kidnapping, unlawful restraint, and false imprisonment. Her boyfriend, 47-year-old Gregory Thomas, and 49-year-old Eddie Wright face similar charges.

This status hearing was to determine whether there should be a competency hearing, after which there will be a preliminary hearing.

A forensic psychiatrist who has visited Philadelphia to review criminal cases here believes his “depravity scale research” should be a mainstay in courtrooms to help guide sentencing decisions.

“Judges are forced to decide whether something is a heinous crime based on their gut,” says Dr. Michael Welner, chairman of the Forensic Panel in New York, a forensic science consulting firm. “We all have our biases.”

His project aims to create a clearcut “depravity scale” which would guide sentencing decisions, minimizing bias.

“There are qualities of a crime, whether they be indifference, a grotesque suffering of a victim, or targeting the vulnerable — which is apparently what happened in the Weston case — that make it much more than your typical endangerment case.”

His research includes public surveys at DepravityScale.org, to shape future criminal sentencing standards.

Reported by Steve Tawa, KYW Newsradio 1060

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