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Court Reinstates Death Sentence in 1985 Killing


St. Louis – A divided federal appeals court has reinstated a death sentence for a man convicted in the 1985 killing of a young St. Louis woman.

The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that jurors in Vernon Brown's trial were not wrongly kept from considering a letter on Brown's behalf from an Army stepbrother.

That relative, Darius Turner, could not testify during Brown's 1991 trial in Synetta Ford's death because he was overseas in the prelude to the first Persian Gulf War.

Tuesday's opinion overturns an Eighth Circuit panel's ruling last year that the penalty phase of Brown's trial was "fatally flawed" by excluding the letter.

But while three judges dissented in Monday's ruling, the Eighth Circuit's majority found that excluding the letter was harmless.


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