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Supreme Court rejects Nebraska bank killer appeal

OMAHA, Neb. — A man who helped carry out one of the deadliest botched bank heists in U.S. history will remain on death row, following a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The high court on Monday rejected Jose Sandoval’s appeal without comment.

The ruling backs a decision last year by the Nebraska Supreme Court, which upheld Sandoval’s death sentence.

Sandoval and two other men were each sentenced to death for killing five people at a U.S. Bank branch in Norfolk on Sept. 26, 2002. A fourth man who served as a lookout was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences.

Prosecutors painted Sandoval as the group’s ringleader, saying he killed three people, including a bank customer, while his partners fanned out and killed two bank employees.

Killed in the bank slayings were U.S. Bank employees Jo Mausbach, Lola Elwood, Samuel Sun and Lisa Bryant and a customer, Evonne Tuttle.

Neither Sandoval’s attorney, Ron Temple of Norfolk, nor Madison County Attorney Joe Smith immediately responded to messages seeking comment left Tuesday by The Associated Press.

In its ruling last year, the Nebraska Supreme Court found one error in Sandoval’s sentencing hearing — a jury instruction to consider his victims’ mental anguish when deciding whether Sandoval should be sentenced to death. But the state high court said the error was harmless.

That’s because the factor was just one of four so-called aggravating factors that the jury found made the killings worthy of the death penalty. Just one aggravating factor is needed to warrant the death penalty under Nebraska law.

One of those aggravators was that Sandoval had a history of brutality against others, including his role in two other separate murders.

In 2008, Sandoval pleaded guilty to killing Travis Lundell and Robert Pearson in the months before the bank slayings. Sandoval received two life sentences for those murders.