GRAND RAPIDS (WWJ) – A Federal Appeals Court has thrown out the death sentence for a Western Michigan man convicted of murder.

The body of Rachel Timmerman was found in Manistee National Forest in 1997.

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The Federal Appeals Court, Wednesday, upheld Marvin Gabrion’s conviction but overturned his sentence — saying the judge in Gabrion’s 2002 Grand Rapids trial made a mistake by not allowing the defense to tell jurors that Gabrion would not face death if he had been tried in state court.

The sentencing phase must now start from scratch.

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WWJ and Fox 2 Legal Analyst Charlie Langton explained why this happened.

“The jury has to be told every single thing about the defendant’s background, the crime, and then there’s a checklist that’s very lengthy that the jury has to go through to make sure that death is the right punishment for the particular crime, for this particular defendant,” said Langton.

“What this new jury will do, I don’t know,” he said. “Michigan was the first state in the union to abolish the death penalty.  The people in Michigan just kind of have something against the death penalty, or at least they did.”

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Gabrion was tried in federal court because of where the victim’s body was found.