"Gillett's death penalty appeal before Miss. high court," is the AP report by Jack Elliott Jr. It's via the Hattiesburg American. Here's an extended excerpt from the beginning of the article:
Prosecutors argued Wednesday that no U.S. Supreme Court decision ties the hands of the Mississippi appellate courts in upholding death sentences even when a trial jury considers inadmissible evidence.
Arguments before the Mississippi Supreme Court came in a post-conviction petition by Roger Gillett, who was sentenced to death in 2007 for his role in the deaths of a Hattiesburg couple. The appeal addresses only the sentencing phase of Gillett’s trial.
Gillett and Lisa Jo Chamberlin were convicted in the 2004 slayings of Linda Heintzelman and Heintzelman’s boyfriend, Vernon Hullett, in Hattiesburg. The victims’ bodies were later found in a freezer on a farm in Russell, Kan.
Prosecutors said Gillett and Chamberlin were living with the victims in Hattiesburg, at the time of the slayings.
Chamberlin, in a taped confession played at her trial, said the victims were killed because they wouldn’t open a safe in Hullett’s home, according to court records.
A series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions have addressed the issues of “harmless error” and “reweighing factors” in death penalty. But Special Assistant Mississippi Attorney General Cameron Benton told the Mississippi court none of those decisions made invalid a state law that says the state court can uphold murderers’ death sentences, even if their sentencing juries wrongly considered some adverse evidence.
In Mississippi, the death penalty can be imposed by a jury only against a defendant found guilty of capital murder, and the jury must find certain aggravating circumstances. Aggravating circumstances include particularly heinous acts of violence, violent criminal histories or other factors that warrant the death penalty as determined by judges and juries.
However, in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court said jurors, not judges, had to decide whether sufficient aggravating circumstances existed to support a death penalty decision. Then, in 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court said in a California case that a death sentence must be set aside if a jury considered inadmissible evidence that otherwise would not have been before it.
Earlier coverage of the case begins at the link.