Convicted cyanide killer granted new attorney for appeal

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A convicted cyanide killer who was in court Wednesday morning was granted new council for his appeal. 

A judge in Virginia Beach granted Joseph Merlino’s request, but didn’t give him the attorney he asked for. 

Merlino was found guilty of killing his ex-girlfriend, Ellie Tran, on Valentine’s Day in 2017.

In a handwritten petition for new council Merlino asked for an attorney out of Arlington, Virginia, who specializes in capital murder. 

The judge rejected the request for that attorney but approved one Merlino didn’t think was capable.

The Public Defender’s Office withdrew and Afshin Farashahi was court appointed.

At that time, Merlino stood up and said he knew of Farashahi and was not sure he was capable of handling a case of this magnitude.

He said he wanted someone from the outside, not someone saturated with the case. 

Despite his objections, the judge assured him the new attorney was knowledgeable and smart.

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