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Author Topic: 9th Circuit Upholds Release of Jasper McMurtrey AZ DR in 1979 Double Murder  (Read 725 times)

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Offline Jeff1857

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The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a California man's right to a fair trial was violated when he was convicted and sentenced to death for a 1979 Tucson-area double murder.
The appeals court unanimously upheld a district court ruling that Jasper McMurtrey, who spent 22 years on Arizona's death row, likely wasn't competent to stand trial in 1981.
"We hold that McMurtrey's memory problems, his erratic behavior, and the variety and quantity of medications that he was prescribed, combined with the absence of an expert evaluation made at the time of trial, created a reasonable doubt as to McMurtrey's mental competence to stand trial," Judge Harry Pregerson wrote in the ruling.
"What it means," said defense attorney Gregory J. Kuykendall, "is that Mr. McMurtrey did not ever receive a hearing at the time of his trial to determine whether he was competent to stand trial. And because of the failure to conduct a hearing at that time about his competence and because of a number of factors that seriously indicate that he was, in fact, incompetent, his right to a fair trial was violated."
Being competent to stand trial means the defendant is able to understand the charges and able to help in his or her defense. Being incompetent does not necessarily mean that the defendant is mentally ill, though McMurtrey does have some mental health issues.
Tucson attorney Natman Schaye also represented McMurtrey in his appeal.
The Arizona Attorney General's Office could decide to ask for a rehearing at the 9th Circuit or take an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is unlikely, Kuykendall said.
Barring any appeal, McMurtrey would return to Arizona to find out whether prosecutors will retry him, offer a plea deal or dismiss charges.
"This is in the hands of the Attorney General's Office," said David Berkman, chief criminal Pima County Attorney. "They are weighing their options regarding to the appeal.
"If it has to come back to us, we will review the case and determine our options," Berkman said.
McMurtrey, who is being monitored by Pretrial Services, is living out of state.
"He has adjusted really, really well and has been living a productive, crime-free and substance abuse-free life," Kuykendall said.
"He's gone to school, gotten a job and he's just done extraordinarily well," Kuykendall said. "It's a real tribute to the power of redemption."
McMurtrey was sentenced to death in 1981 for the shooting deaths of Barry F. Collins of North Carolina and Albert Hughes Jr. of New Jersey at the now-defunct Ranch House bar, a topless-dancer club and biker hangout at 4950 N. Casa Grande Highway. He was also sentenced to 21 years for wounding another bar patron, Eugene Taylor.
In March 2003, a federal judge ordered a new trial, ruling that McMurtrey's legal representation had been inadequate. The state Attorney General's Office appealed that ruling, but failed to seek a stay of the new trial, which was supposed to take place within 180 days.
In December 2003, U.S. District Judge William Fremming Nielsen released McMurtrey, saying he did not believe he intended to kill.

http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/ss/local/94453.php
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Great. The thughugging 9th Circuit has another murderer running around on the streets. How does a district judge decide he doesn't believe someone intended to kill anyway. Unbelievable. So was he incompetent to stand trial, have inadequate counsel, or he did it accidentally? It couldn't have been all 3. Geezzzzz.

Offline Jeff1857

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Pima County prosecutors won't seek the death penalty in a 30-year-old double murder case.

Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay told Pima County Superior Court Judge John S. Leonardo on Monday that he will soon file a notice to drop the death penalty allegation against Jasper McMurtrey.

McMurtrey was convicted in 1981 and sentenced to death for the 1979 shooting deaths of Barry E. Collins of North Carolina and Albert Hughes Jr. of New Jersey at the now-defunct Ranch House bar, a topless-dancer club and biker hangout at 4950 N. Casa Grande Highway. He was sentenced to 21 years for wounding another bar patron, Eugene Taylor.

McMurtrey spent 22 years on Arizona's death row before a federal court ruled he was unfairly convicted.

Among the complications of the case is that some of the original trial witnesses have died, including a key witness who was killed in a shootout with sheriff's deputies, Unklesbay said previously.

Unklesbay has been talking to defense attorneys regarding a possible plea deal. If no plea deal is reached, then McMurtrey will be retried on two first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Collins and Hughes.

In March 2003, a federal judge ordered a new trial, ruling that McMurtrey's legal representation had been inadequate. The state Attorney General's Office appealed that ruling, but failed to seek a stay of the new trial, which was supposed to take place within 180 days.

In December 2003, U.S. District Judge William Fremming Nielsen released McMurtrey, saying he did not believe he intended to kill.

In August, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Nielsen's ruling, saying that McMurtrey likely wasn't competent to stand trial in 1981.

"We hold that McMurtrey's memory problems, his erratic behavior, and the variety and quantity of medications that he was prescribed, combined with the absence of an expert evaluation made at the time of trial, created a reasonable doubt as to McMurtrey's mental competence to stand trial," Judge Harry Pregerson wrote in the appellate ruling.

McMurtrey, who lives in South Carolina, didn't attend Monday's hearing. McMurtrey has complied with all of his conditions of a pre-trial release in the five years since he was freed, defense attorney Gregory Kuykendall said Monday.


http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/ss/local/109181.php