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Justices reject Oklahoma plea to restore death sentence

OKLAHOMA CITY — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused Oklahoma’s plea to reinstate the death sentence of a man convicted of killing two people in Edmond in 1994.

Supreme Court Justices did not comment Monday after leaving in place a federal appeals court order granting a new sentencing hearing for Rocky Eugene Dodd.

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Dodd’s death sentence in 2013. The court said that the victim-impact statements during Dodd’s trial violated his 8th Amendment right to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

Seven relatives of Dodd’s victims were allowed to call for the death penalty in their testimony during the sentencing phase of his trial.

The 10th Circuit agreed with the U.S. District Court “that the admission of the sentence recommendations violated the Eighth Amendment” but did not agree that the constitutional violation was harmless.

In comparing federal law to Oklahoma law, the appeals court found that where the U.S. Supreme Court has held “that it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment to allow a victim or a victim’s family member to comment, during second-stage proceedings, on the appropriate sentence for a capital defendant,” Oklahoma law was to the contrary. It “expressly authorizes the admission of victim impact testimony, including victims’ characterization of the crime and opinions as to what sentence a defendant should receive,” the court wrote.

Dodd received two death sentences in 1994 for the murder of his neighbors Shane McInturff and Keri Sloniker, who were found with their throats cut in an apartment complex in Edmond. He has been on death row in Oklahoma for seven years.

The U.S. Supreme Court case is Trammell v. Dodd, 13-850. The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office did not return calls or emails seeking comment Monday. Oklahoma federal defender Randy Bauman, who was one of the attorneys who represented Dodd, said his office had no comment.

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