The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has been asked to reconsider a decision in the John Harvey Adamson case that Arizona prosecutors contend could unfairly help others challenge their death sentences.
Adamson was convicted in the 1976 car-bombing murder in Phoenix of Don Bolles, a reporter with The Arizona Republic.The U.S. Supreme Court refused to reinstate Adamson's death penalty in 1990 and last year he agreed to plead guilty to a second-degree murder charge in exchange for his testimony against two others charged in Bolles' murder. Their trial is pending.
Assistant Attorney General Jack Roberts said the state's request in the Adamson case involves two Jan. 30 rulings by the appeals court.
Roberts said the rulings could affect death row inmates who at first avoid a death sentence by pleading to a lesser charge but who then violate their plea bargain, are prosecuted for first-degree murder and are then sentenced to death.
According to Roberts, the 9th Circuit would view a judge's actions in such a scenario as "arbitrary and capricious" and a prosecutor's action in seeking the death penalty after a plea bargain was broken as "vindictive."
Both are grounds that could be used to challenge a death sentence, Roberts said.
If the 9th Circuit refuses to reconsider Adamson's decision, Roberts said state Attorney General Grant Woods probably will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.