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The Supreme Court seemed receptive Tuesday to reinstating the death sentence of a flamboyant neo-Nazi convicted of murdering three men in Ohio more than a quarter century ago.

Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray told justices during oral arguments that Frank Spisak had a fair trial and deserves death. Cordray urged the high court to reverse a federal appeals court ruling that found Spisak's trial lawyer was ineffective and that his jury received faulty sentencing instructions.

Spisak, 58, was convicted of three murders at Cleveland State University over a seven-month period in 1982 — crimes he said were motivated by his hatred of gays, blacks and Jews. At the same time, Spisak claimed his crimes were sparked by mental illness related to confusion about his sexual identity. He wants to have surgery to become a woman.

The 1983 trial became a public spectacle as Spisak celebrated his killings in court and openly discussed his hateful views. He even grew a Hitler-style mustache, carried a copy of Hitler's book, "Mein Kampf" during the proceedings and gave the Nazi salute to the jury.

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled that Spisak's trial attorney essentially gave up on his client in closing arguments by conceding that Spisak was "demented" and "undeserving of sympathy."


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