PHOENIX - An appeals court has thrown out the death sentence of an Arizona man convicted in the 1981 fatal beating of another man who was targeted for being gay, ordering that he get a new sentencing trial or be given life in prison.
Fifty-three-year-old Steven Craig James has been on death row for nearly 20 years in the beating death of Juan Maya.
Although a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals called Maya's killing an appalling hate crime, they threw out James' death sentence.
The judges found that James' lawyer at the time was ineffective for his "complete failure" to present evidence of James' troubled childhood, bipolar disorder and chronic drug abuse -- factors that could have gotten him a sentence of life in prison.
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