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Supreme Court Reinstates Cop Killer's Death Sentence

By Robin Enos on May 11, 2011 6:50 AM

Convicted cop killer Harry Mitts awaits an execution date in Ohio.

Mitts shot and killed an African-American man in 1994, after shouting a racist tirade at the man. In the ensuing shootout, Mitts shot three police officers, wounding two and killing one. An Ohio jury convicted Mitts on two counts of aggravated murder and two counts of attempted murder in 1994. After receiving standard Ohio jury instructions, the jury sentenced Mitts to death, reports Courthouse News.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a per curiam decision, has overturned a 6th Circuit panel decision reversing Mitts' conviction. The appellate court found an Ohio jury instruction presented the jury with an unconstitutional "either/or" choice -- i.e., convict and impose the death penalty, or the accused walks, reports Courthouse News.

The Sixth Circuit denied a request for rehearing en banc.

In reinstating Ohio's capital judgment against Mitts, the Supreme Court reasoned that the same Ohio jury instruction recently passed constitutional muster. In Ohio v. Spisak, the Court held that there was no "either/or" choice, since the jury had already determined guilt before choosing between the death penalty and various life sentences.

Thus a jury instruction, given in the penalty phase, that demands the jury impose a death penalty if it finds beyond a reasonable doubt the special circumstances outweigh the mitigating facts, forces no unconstitutional choice on the jury, reports Courthouse News.

Prosecutors will now "promptly seek" an execution date for Harry Mitts, reports WOIA-TV.

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