The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected efforts aimed at reinstating a Washington man’s death sentence for killing two women during a 1981 bank robbery.
The court, without comment, turned away prosecutors’ argument that Mitchell Edward Rupe wrongly was granted a new sentencing trial. Lower courts ruled that he should have been allowed to tell his original sentencing jury that a prosecution witness failed a lie-detector test.
Bank tellers Candace Hemmig and Twila Capron were shot to death during a robbery in Olympia.
Rupe’s checkbook was found on the bank counter, and he initially confessed to the killings. But he later took back the confession and blamed Monte Yovetich, a prosecution witness.
Yovetich testified that Rupe admitted the robbery to him and hid the money and gun in Yovetich’s garage. Rupe was convicted of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder.
During the sentencing phase, the presiding judge refused to let Rupe’s lawyer tell jurors that Yovetich was found deceptive in a lie-detector test when he denied participating in the robbery.
Rupe, in arguing against imposing the death penalty, wanted to use the test result to attack Yovetich’s credibility. Rupe was sentenced to death.
The sentence was set aside on a second argument: that the 400-pound might be decapitated during hanging, violating constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment. That was resolved when the state instituted lethal injection and Rupe was again sentenced to die. Washington state courts upheld the sentence, but a federal judge threw it out.
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