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9th Circuit Overturns Death Penalty in Arizona Home Invasion

A federal appeals court has overturned a death sentence issued to a man convicted in a 1987 home-invasion killing in Arizona.

Theodore Washington was one of three men convicted of forcing their way into the Yuma home of Ralph and Sterleen Hill in search of drugs and cash. Both were shot in the head; Ralph Hill survived.

Washington said the lawyer who represented him at sentencing was ineffective because he failed to obtain a psychiatric evaluation for Washington and failed to uncover evidence Washington was frequently beaten and given alcohol as a sedative when he was a child.

The Arizona Supreme Court rejected Washington's appeal, but a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled 2-1 Wednesday that Washington's lawyer was ineffective. The panel said unless the state holds a new sentencing promptly, Washington's sentence will be converted to life in prison.

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