Defense attorneys argued before the nation’s high court Tuesday that twice-convicted murderer Jeffrey Landrigan should get another hearing that could lighten his sentence.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Schriro v. Landrigan.
After killing his “best friend,” Greg Brown, in Oklahoma in 1982 and attempting to stab to death a fellow prison inmate in 1986, Landrigan escaped from prison to Phoenix in November 1989.
Three weeks later, he stabbed and strangled to death a new friend, Chester Dyer, then stole the man’s paycheck.
At his sentencing in 1990, where a judge would determine whether he’d be sentenced to death or serve life in prison, Landrigan stopped his attorney from providing mitigating evidence that might have earned him a lesser sentence.
But Landrigan later decided he would have allowed his attorney to call for experts to present evidence arguing that he’s biologically compelled to kill people.
He then claimed that his attorney was incompetent for not advising him about the possibility of that defense.
Before the nine justices on Tuesday, attorneys argued about whether Landrigan had waived his right to mitigating evidence.
At issue is whether attorneys and judges need to hold a formal discussion with a defendant to ensure he or she understands what waiving such evidence would mean for their case.
Landrigan appealed and was rejected three times — once by the Arizona Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court and later the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
But in 2006, a larger panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed and overturned its previous decision.
The U.S. Supreme Court will issue its opinion in May or June.