DETROIT (AP) – Prosecutors in western Michigan asked a federal appeals court on Friday to reinstate a death sentence for a man convicted of drowning a woman in a national forest.
The government met a deadline to ask the full 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to set aside a recent decision by one of its three-judge panels and reopen the case with a fresh round of arguments.
In 2002, Marvin Gabrion was convicted of killing Rachel Timmerman, a Newaygo County woman who had accused him of rape. Michigan doesn’t have the death penalty, but he was prosecuted in federal court in Grand Rapids because the victim was found in a national forest.
The appeals court threw out Gabrion’s death sentence in a 2-1 decision in August. The court said the defense should have been allowed to argue that the state’s ban on capital punishment could be a factor for the jury to consider when choosing a punishment. The trial judge had barred it.
The three-judge panel said Gabrion had to go through the sentencing phase again.
“Neither Michigan’s lack of a death penalty nor the fact that Gabrion murdered Timmerman near the forest boundary has any bearing on his personal culpability for the crime,” the U.S. attorney’s office in Grand Rapids said in a court filing Friday.
It is rare for the appeals court to throw out the work of its panels. More than a dozen judges at the Ohio-based court are eligible to vote on whether to reconsider the case.
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