Death row inmate's life spared due to jury error

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By Tracy Harris

It has been 12 years since Armott and Edna Porter were murdered in their Crestwood home by their former son-in-law.

Last week, Miguel Soto, 41, re-entered a guilty plea for those crimes that will spare his life, but keep him in prison without the possibility of parole.

Soto was sentenced to death in 2000, but a circuit court judge reversed Soto’s death sentence last year because he was denied the right to a fair trial.

He was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of his ex-wife’s parents in 1999 at the Porters’ Crestwood home.

Soto was also convicted of attempted murder of his ex-wife, Armotta Porter, burglary and wanton endangerment for firing a weapon while his 3-year-old daughter was in the line of fire.

But Judge Karen Conrad ruled last year that two jurors in Soto’s case had been ineligible to sit on the jury.

In a capital trial — one where the death penalty is being considered — jurors are required to consider information about a person’s background and character, as well as case details not related to guilt but that could influence a juror’s decision to impose the death penalty.

In a 2010 hearing, one juror said he believed in “an eye for an eye” during Soto’s trial and that his decision to impose the death penalty was based on the crime itself.

Those statements conflicted with what the man said during the jury selection process.

Another juror made similar conflicting statements.

In her 2011 ruling, Conrad wrote the two people should have been excused from the jury.

Soto was scheduled for a resentencing trial for February 2013.

His plea agreement ends his ability to appeal his conviction at the state level, although he can challenge the constitutionality of his conviction in federal court.

The state attorney general’s office handled the resentencing. Spokesperson Allison Martin said the state agreed to the plea at the request of the victims’ family, who wanted the case concluded.

The state didn’t appeal Conrad’s ruling setting aside the death sentence.

With his plea, Soto now faces life in prison without the possibility of parole and 50 additional years for his other convictions. Soto is housed at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville.