UNITED STATES. SUPREME COURT TOSSES DEATH SENTENCE
June 20, 2005: the US Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Ronald Rompilla, a Pennsylvania man on death row for a 1988 murder, ruling that his lawyers had failed to properly represent him.
For the second week in running, the court, normally seen as conservative on capital cases, ruled in favour of a defendant.
In a 5-4 ruling, justices found that Rompilla's lawyers had failed to adequately look into background evidence about the convicted man's mental capacity and health.
Justice David Souter wrote in a majority opinion that even when a capital defendant and his family have suggested there is no mitigating evidence "his lawyer is bound to make reasonable efforts to obtain and review material that counsel knows the prosecution will probably rely on as evidence of aggravation at the trial's sentencing phase."
Rompilla had argued his lawyers had inadequately looked into mitigating evidence that he had a troubled childhood and suffered from mental illness and alcoholism. (Sources: Afp, 20/06/2005)