Two of Alaska's best known lawyers have filed an appeal in the high-profile case of ex-stripper Mechele Linehan, recently convicted of murdering a former roommate in 1996.
Jeff Feldman and Susan Orlansky are taking up the case, hoping to overturn Linehan's conviction for which she was sentenced to 99 years this month.
Linehan, now 35, maintains her innocence and says she had nothing to do with the death of her friend, Kent Leppink, a 36-year-old commercial fisherman found shot to death in the woods near Hope in 1996.
Feldman and Orlansky filed the appeal last week, listing 38 reasons why they believe Linehan did not get a fair trial with Superior Court Judge Philip Volland. Linehan's attorney during the trial, Kevin Fitzgerald, is still on the case. He recommended Feldman and Orlansky for the appeal, according Linehan's husband, Dr. Colin Linehan.
It is standard for a different lawyer to take up an appeal because it brings fresh eyes to the case, Feldman said of why Fitzgerald wasn't handling it.
"A verdict that resulted from an unprofessional investigation followed by a disingenuous prosecution demands, in the name of justice, to be appealed," said Colin Linehan, when reached Tuesday afternoon in Olympia, Wash.
Feldman and Orlansky are high-profile lawyers. Feldman has handled such clients as BP and former Gov. Tony Knowles. Feldman declined to talk about whether they are working on the case pro bono or charging their normal high fees.
The case will likely be heard by the Court of Appeals in the late fall or early 2009, Feldman said. Decisions typically are made six to 12 months later.
Prosecutor Pat Gullufsen in last fall's trial presented a case that portrayed Linehan as a manipulative seductress who used one lover to murder another for a $1 million life insurance policy payout she erroneously thought would go to her. John Carlin III, the man prosecutors say Linehan enlisted to commit the crime, was also convicted and sentenced to 99 years in a separate trial. Public defenders have filed an appeal on behalf of Carlin.
Among the reasons listed in the appeal paperwork are that Volland allowed references to the 1994 movie "The Last Seduction" in Linehan's trial. The prosecution said the young dancer was inspired by the movie to kill Leppink. Volland watched the movie and found few similarities to the crime, though. Jurors still heard about the movie and defense lawyers think it tainted the jury.
After her stripping job in Anchorage at the Great Alaskan Bush Company, Linehan returned to her home in Louisiana and went to college in the mid-1990s. Later, she married Colin Linehan, had a daughter, earned a master's degree and opened a cosmetic medical clinic.
Linehan has been at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River since her conviction. Her trial garnered national attention with Alaska State Troopers calling her "evil" and Linehan's family and friends saying troopers fabricated a Hollywood-esque picture of her and went on a witch hunt to get a conviction.
Find Megan Holland online at adn.com/contact/mholland or call 257-4343.