Court Watch - POSTED: 2009/12/02 11:39
The Missouri Supreme Court overturned a man's death sentence Tuesday because his attorney failed to question the character of a murder victim who had child pornography on his computer.
The high court acknowledged in its unanimous ruling that character evidence about murder victims typically is barred. But when relatives of victim Ralph Lape Jr. testified about his generous character during the sentencing phase of Mark Gill's murder trial, defense attorneys should have countered by highlighting the smut on Lape's computer, the Supreme Court said.
Had Gill's attorneys done so, the Supreme Court said, jurors may have been less inclined to sentence him to death for the July 2002 kidnapping, robbery and shooting. The Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court for a new sentencing hearing.
Cape Girardeau County Prosecutor Morley Swingle said he would again seek the death penalty for Gill.