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Appeals court upsets death sentence ruling

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal appeals court overthrew one of two death sentences for a convicted killer, ruling that jurors were wrongly blocked from considering a letter written on the man's behalf.

Vernon Brown will remain on death row for the other capital sentence.

A panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling Friday, declared the penalty phase of Brown's 1991 trial for the slaying of a 19-year-old woman as "fatally flawed."

The judges cited a letter Brown's stepbrother, Darius Turner, wrote from Saudi Arabia, where he had been stationed during the Gulf War.

In Friday's opinion, Judge Richard S. Arnold wrote that Turner's letter "had the potential to sway the jury because it cast the petitioner in such a positive light and showed the continuing positive impact that his life could have if preserved."