High Court Reinstates Death Penalty For Kamiah Murder Justices Reverse February Decision, Deny New Trial In Beating Death
Thu., Aug. 28, 1997
The Idaho Supreme Court unanimously reinstated George Junior Porter’s conviction and death sentence Wednesday, less than seven months after ordering a new trial for a Kamiah, Idaho, woman’s beating death.
The high court ruled Feb. 4, also unanimously, that 2nd District Judge George Reinhardt abused his discretion by allowing jurors at Porter’s 1990 trial to hear how he had beaten and pulled clumps of hair out of the heads of three other women before the December 1988 death of Theresa Lynn Jones.
Porter was never charged for those other beatings, but prosecutors argued they were distinctive enough to establish a “signature” identifying Porter as Jones’ killer. The Supreme Court, in the first opinion written by Linda Copple Trout as chief justice, concluded that hair pulling by abusive men was not sufficiently unusual to constitute a signature of Porter’s behavior.
But in reversing itself on Wednesday, the court cited Reinhardt’s exclusion of other testimony about Porter’s beating of previous girlfriends - besides hair pulling - because the similarities to Jones’ slaying were not sufficiently distinctive.
Trout, again writing for the court, also cited testimony from two law enforcement officers and a state investigator that it was unusual for a beating victim to lose as much hair as Jones had lost, and that it was unusual for a man beating a woman to deliberately pull out her hair.
“In light of this testimony and the district court’s carefully constructed limitations, we are convinced that the district court did not abuse its discretion,” she wrote. “Thus, we hold that Porter was not denied his right to due process…”
Porter, 40, of Nezperce, Idaho, was convicted in January 1990 and ordered executed on Aug. 30, 1990. Jones died of head injuries and her body was found in her home with clumps of hair scattered.
While acknowledging that he had a “mean streak,” Porter maintained his innocence at his trial and claimed the fights were “just as much their fault as mine.”
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