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Delaware high court overturns death sentence

The Delaware Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the death sentence of an attorney convicted of a 1996 murder.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Delaware Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the death sentence of a once well-connected attorney convicted of the 1996 murder of the governor’s scheduling secretary.

The sentence was flawed because the jury vote recommending a death sentence for Thomas Capano was not unanimous, the court ruled. The conviction stands, but the high court ordered a new penalty hearing, state prosecutor Steven Wood said.

Prosecutors say Capano shot Anne Marie Fahey, 30, scheduling secretary to then-Gov. Tom Carper, and dumped her body in the Atlantic Ocean because she was breaking off an affair with him.

Capano, a former state prosecutor, is a member of a well-known family involved in land development.

His attorneys had argued that his death sentence, issued in 1999, should be overturned because his jury was not unanimous in determining that Fahey’s slaying was premeditated.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Capano’s case in 2002, days after it issued a landmark ruling that juries, not judges, must decide whether criminals should receive the death penalty.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the state high court found that the Delaware Constitution demands unanimous jury verdicts in death-penalty sentencing, even if federal law does not.

The ruling affects only Capano because he was the only one of the 16 persons now on death row whose jury wasn’t unanimous, Wood said. He said his office would review the court’s decision and talk with the victim’s family before deciding whether to seek a federal appeal.

Capano attorney Thomas Bernstein said that while he was relieved the sentence was vacated, he was disappointed that the court did not overturn the conviction.

He said Capano would now appeal the conviction in federal court.