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Attorneys for a drug dealer facing the death penalty won an unusual concession from a federal judge, after the judge said it was a “shame” that the defendant adamantly refused to rely on his troubled upbringing as a defense against execution. Over objections from federal prosecutors, Eastern District Judge Raymond J. Dearie said Tuesday he would allow a social worker to testify that she had compiled an extensive report on the history and emotional condition of the 33-year-old defendant, Emile Dixon. Last week, Dixon was found guilty of two drug-related murders. The social worker would also be allowed to tell the jury that she would not testify about her findings at the request of Dixon, who, his attorneys say, is a private person who does not want to subject his family to public criticism and embarrassment. Prosecutors would not be allowed to see the report. Judge Dearie said he found the report “compelling,” and added it was important that the jurors know of Dixon’s decision to protect his family’s privacy at, perhaps, the expense of his life. “I think it says something about the man,” the judge said, adding that he had no concerns that Dixon’s request was “strategic” rather than personal. Dixon’s trial, which is in the sentencing phase, gained national attention earlier this year when U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft overruled local federal prosecutors who wanted to seek life without parole rather than the death penalty for Dixon’s crimes. His case is only the third death penalty trial in the Eastern District of New York in the last three decades. At the outset of the proceedings, Dearie was reluctant to allow Dixon’s attorneys to refer to the social worker’s report without giving it to prosecutors for possible cross-examination. The judge said he was concerned that such testimony would “open a door,” and added that he needed to maintain a “level playing field.” Though he had not seen the report, the judge said he assumed that a skillful attorney could manipulate it to aid either the defense or the prosecution. After Dearie returned to his chambers and read the report, however, he said he no longer felt that it could be of any help to the prosecution. He said the report was so compelling that he wondered if the court had the power to force it into evidence despite Dixon’s request, but he ultimately decided against taking that step. “You know what my first reaction was to the report? That maybe the government should have seen it before the case got started, but that’s just one man’s opinion,” the judge said. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Smith, representing the office of Eastern District Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf, objected to Dearie’s ruling. “This will leave the jury with the impression that there is substantial mitigating evidence,” Smith said. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Beys described Dixon as a career criminal and murderer without remorse or redemption who was “beyond rehabilitation.” Dixon faces several aggravating factors that could subject him to a death sentence, including that one murder was intentional and that his killings involved substantial planning and premeditation. Prosecutors also contend he will be a danger to other prisoners if he is allowed to live. “The only thing he knows how to do is sell drugs and kill people,” Beys said. “And Emile Dixon will never learn his lesson.” He said the only appropriate sentence for Dixon is death. Richard W. Levitt, who is representing Dixon in the sentencing phase, told the jury they should not give up on Dixon, whose life had “a spark of decency, a core of humanity that deserves to live.” He said prosecutors were trying to cast Dixon as a serial killer by referring to other murders he allegedly committed. Levitt said there was no evidence Dixon committed those crimes. Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors called numerous family members of the two murder victims to testify about their personal losses. Today, Dixon’s attorneys will call an expert to testify that Dixon would not be dangerous as a prisoner. They will also call the social worker, Carmeta Alvarus. Dixon will not allow his attorneys to call any witnesses to testify about his personal life or the history of his family.

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