The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider reinstating the death sentence for a convicted murderer who twice escaped from prison after being found guilty of bludgeoning and drowning a man who was planning to testify against him.
The justices said they will hear an appeal filed by prosecutors in Pennsylvania after the federal appeals court in Philadelphia upheld a lower court order throwing out the death sentence against Joseph Kindler for killing one-time accomplice David Bernstein in 1982.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Kindler's lawyer was ineffective at the sentencing phase of his trial and also found problems with the instructions given to the jury.
State courts had never decided on Kindler's claims. Instead, those courts said Kindler forfeited the right to be heard on those issues because of his escapes.
Bernstein agreed to testify against Kindler about their roles in robbing a store. Kindler beat Bernstein with a baseball bat and an accomplice jabbed him with an electric prod. The two men dumped Bernstein in the Delaware River, but after discovering he was still alive, they managed to fill his lungs with water and tied a cinder block around his neck.