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Death Sentence in Killing of Newsman Bolles Upset

Associated Press

A federal appeals court today reversed the death sentence of a man convicted in a 1976 car bombing that killed a newspaper reporter, and ruled that Arizona’s death penalty law is unconstitutional.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 7-4 decision, found that the death penalty law violated the right to a jury trial, by letting the trial judge decide whether a murder was a capital crime. The court also said the law improperly required the defendant to justify leniency and did not allow consideration of all pertinent evidence favoring leniency.

In a separate 6-5 vote, the court also ruled that John Adamson was improperly sentenced to death because the trial judge first ruled that a prison term was appropriate for the murder, and imposed a death sentence only after Adamson violated a plea agreement requiring him to testify against two other men.

Adamson, a racing dog owner, admitted planting the dynamite bomb that exploded June 2, 1976, under the car of Don Bolles, an investigative reporter for the Arizona Republic. Bolles died 11 days later.

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