Appeals Court Tosses Man's Death Sentence - New York News

Appeals Court Tosses Man's Death Sentence

Posted:

PHOENIX (AP) — An appeals court has thrown out the death sentence of an Arizona man convicted in the 1981 murder of another man who was targeted for being gay, ordering that he get a new sentencing trial or be given life in prison.

Steven Craig James, 53, has been on death row for nearly 30 years in the Nov. 17, 1981, beating death of Juan Maya.

Although a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called Maya's killing an appalling hate crime in which he was robbed taunted, beaten, shot and thrown into a mine shaft, they threw out James' death sentence.

In an opinion filed Wednesday, the judges wrote that James' attorney at the time was ineffective for his "complete failure" to investigate and present the sentencing judge with evidence of James' troubled childhood, bipolar disorder and history of chronic drug abuse — so-called mitigating factors that could have made him eligible for a sentence of life in prison instead of the death penalty.

In James' case, the 9th Circuit called the mitigating factors "powerful," writing that James' birth parents were "utterly unfit" and exposed him to violence, drug abuse, poverty and sexual predators before he was given up for adoption. His adoptive father "administered disciplinary beatings," and James later became a habitual drug user and high school drop-out, the court wrote.

The panel ordered the U.S. District Court of Arizona to give state prosecutors a reasonable amount of time to resentence James. If the state chooses not to seek a new death sentence against James, he will automatically be given life in prison under Arizona law, the court wrote.

A prosecutor and James' current defense attorneys did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday.

James was one of three people convicted of killing Maya. The others were Lawrence Libberton and 14-year-old Marty Norton.

Court records say Maya came on to Norton, who lured him to James and Lawrence. The three robbed Maya, then drove him two hours west of Phoenix to a desert area near Salome, all the while talking about killing him.

Records show Maya was brutally beaten with rocks and was shot before being dumped in an abandoned mine shaft. James later led police to the body after he was arrested in the killing.

Norton testified against James and Libberton and pleaded guilty in juvenile court to first-degree murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and credit card fraud. He was held in a juvenile detention facility until he was released at the age of 18.

Lawrence was convicted of first-degree murder and other charges and sentenced to death, but his sentence was thrown out in 2009 by the 9th Circuit. The court wrote that Lawrence's attorney at the time was ineffective for failing to show James' greater culpability in Maya's murder and evidence of Libberton's abusive childhood.

Libberton is now serving a sentence of life in prison.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Community celebrates renovated Queens Library branch damaged by Sandy

    Community celebrates renovated Queens Library branch damaged by Sandy

    Friday, April 18 2014 4:57 PM EDT2014-04-18 20:57:15 GMT
    It's been nearly a year and a half since Superstorm Sandy tore through the Queens Library Arverne branch in the Rockaways. Now it is back in business.Sandy left behind 4 feet of water. A massive renovation -- gutting, cleaning, repainting, rewiring -- was needed to get everything back up to speed. The library, which reopened March 18, is a vital part of the community.
    It's been nearly a year and a half since Superstorm Sandy tore through the Queens Library Arverne branch in the Rockaways. Now it is back in business.Sandy left behind 4 feet of water. A massive renovation -- gutting, cleaning, repainting, rewiring -- was needed to get everything back up to speed. The library, which reopened March 18, is a vital part of the community.
  • NYPD identifies woman wanted for baby snatch attempt

    NYPD: Woman tried to snatch baby in stroller

    Friday, April 18 2014 4:36 PM EDT2014-04-18 20:36:31 GMT
    Police want to question a woman who tried to push a stroller with a baby inside away from a nanny in Chelsea. The incident occurred on 8th Ave. and 17th St. at about 4 p.m. on Thursday. The 8-month-old baby was not harmed. People who were in the area jumped in to stop the woman before she took off southbound on 8th Ave., according to police. A sketch was released on Friday of the suspect.

    Police are looking for a woman who tried to push a stroller with a baby inside away from a nanny in Chelsea. Police have identified the suspect as Tara Anne McDonald, 46. The attempted kidnapping occurred on 8th Ave. and 17th St. at about 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, police said. People who were in the area jumped in to stop McDonald before she took off southbound on 8th Ave., according to police.


  • Basil farm ready to switch to marijuana

    Basil farm ready to switch to marijuana

    Friday, April 18 2014 4:11 PM EDT2014-04-18 20:11:50 GMT
    Basil plants grow on a New Jersey farm, but the facility could be turned into a five-acre medical marijuana greenhouse with only 48 hours' notice. The hoses from the state-of-the-art Dutch hydroponic system are watering flowers now, but with a few minor adjustments could just as easily grow marijuana plants for medicinal cannabis. The only reason it's not happening now is because the company is publicly traded and subject to federal law.
    Basil plants grow on a New Jersey farm, but the facility could be turned into a five-acre medical marijuana greenhouse with only 48 hours' notice. The hoses from the state-of-the-art Dutch hydroponic system are watering flowers now, but with a few minor adjustments could just as easily grow marijuana plants for medicinal cannabis. The only reason it's not happening now is because the company is publicly traded and subject to federal law.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices