Arizonan on Death Row Loses High Court Appeal on Evidence

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The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against an Arizona man convicted of murder who argued that he might have avoided death row if allowed to tell jurors about the difficult circumstances of his childhood, reports Courthouse News Service. James McKinney was sentenced to death for two murders he committed with his half-brother during a string of robberies in 1991. Seeking to avoid the death penalty, McKinney tried to present evidence that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his abusive childhood. His mother routinely fled with McKinney and his two sisters, but McKinney’s alcoholic father tracked them down and dragged them back home.

A majority opinion by Justice Brett Kavanaugh rejected McKinney’s argument  that a jury should have been allowed to hear McKinney’s evidence about his childhood. Kavanaugh said the Arizona Supreme Court properly weighed the evidence and upheld McKinney’s conviction. Writing for dissenters, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that under an earlier Supreme Court ruling that Arizona’s death penalty procedures were unconstitutional, “McKinney’s death sentences—imposed based on aggravating factors found by a judge, not a jury—are unlawful.”

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