"Judge overturns Louisiana man's conviction, death sentence," is the AP report, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
A federal judge overturned a 20-year-old murder conviction last week from a death penalty case in Natchitoches Parish.
U.S. District Court Judge Dee Drell, sitting in Alexandria, granted the petition from Willard Allen, who was convicted of murdering a night club patron during an armed robbery on Sept. 7, 1993.
Drell found the seating of an admittedly biased juror violated Allen’s Sixth Amendment rights to an impartial jury. Drell also found that the failure of Allen’s attorney to question the juror violated Allen’s rights to effective counsel.
Drell remanded the case to the 10th Judicial District in Natchitoches Parish with instructions to hold a bail hearing within 45 days. The state has 270 days to retry Allen or must release him from prison.
The Shreveport Times reports, "Judge throws out conviction in Natchitoches death penalty case," by Jeff Matthews of Louisiana Gannett.
"We find the state trial court allowed an avowedly biased juror ... to be seated on petitioner's jury," Drell wrote in his ruling, issued last Thursday.
"The juror ... was never otherwise rehabilitated, nor did he ever indicate he would weigh the evidence and/or decide the case fairly and impartially," Drell wrote.
In addition, the court granted Allen's appeal of whether he had adequate assistance of counsel.
Allen's trial attorney, James Calhoun, did not challenge the juror's inclusion either for cause or with one of his peremptory challenges, and the trial court seated him on the jury, the ruling said. "The issue was never considered on appeal, as the appeal was handled by petitioner's trial attorney, who did not raise it," it said.
"Accordingly, we find petitioner's unreliable conviction cannot be the basis for criminal punishment, much less a sentence of death. ... he has met his burden to have that conviction vacated and for a new trial," the ruling states.
Earlier coverage from Louisiana begins at the link.