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More than 10 years after an Oldham County jury convicted a man of murdering his former in-laws, a circuit court judge reversed his death sentence Monday because he was denied the right to a fair trial.
The court found that two jurors who served in the capital case of Miguel Soto in 2000 had been ineligible to sit on the jury.
Soto was convicted on two counts first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of his ex-wife’s parents, Armott and Edna Porter, on June 29, 1999, at the Porters’ Crestwood home.
Soto also was convicted of attempted murder of his ex-wife, Armotta Porter, first-degree burglary and first-degree wanton endangerment for firing a weapon while his 3-year-old daughter was in the line of fire the day his in-laws died.
An order filed Monday said they did not meet the minimum constitutional standards of being able to consider mitigating evidence in their decision to impose the death penalty.
Mitigating evidence is information about a person’s background and character, or details of a case that could lead a juror to choose a penalty other than death. Jurors in a murder trial are prohibited from ignoring this kind of evidence.
Juror Timmy Walker said in 2005 that he believed in “an eye for an eye” at the time of Soto’s trial.
In Walker’s tape from the trial, however, he said he would be willing to consider a range of penalties.
In an April 2010 hearing, Walker also said that his decision to impose the death penalty was based on the crime itself.
Juror Laura Bevarly testified in April that she would not consider mitigating evidence in a murder trial, such as whether Soto had been abused as a child, in deciding whether to sentence him to death. In her tape from the trial, however, Bevarly had said she would consider that kind of evidence.
In an order filed Monday by Judge Karen Conrad, she wrote that making inaccurate statements on voir dire “is in violation of the minimum Constitutional standards for a juror sitting on a capital case.”
A juror who cannot consider mitigating evidence, or who would automatically impose a death sentence on someone he believed committed a murder, must be excused from the jury under law, Conrad wrote.
The court will meet with Soto’s lawyers within the next 60 days, and a new sentencing trial will be held.
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