LOCAL : High Court Upholds New Trial in 'Halloween II' Murder Case

From Times Staff and wire service reports

The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to reinstate the conviction and death sentence of a man who confessed to the "Halloween II" stabbing murders of an elderly Fullerton couple in December, 1982.

The justices, without comment, denied the state's request that they review a California Supreme Court ruling on March 13 in which Richard Boyer, 32, of El Monte was granted a new trial. The state court, in a 5-2 decision, ruled that he was entitled to a new trial because police obtained his confession in "flagrant violation" of his constitutional rights.

Boyer was convicted of murder and robbery and sentenced to death in 1984 in the killings of Aileen Harbitz, 68, who had been stabbed 19 times, and her husband, Francis, 67, who had been stabbed 24 times.

The case was dubbed the "Halloween II" murders because Boyer, while admitting the crime, blamed his actions on a drug-induced flashback to a stabbing scene in the horror movie.

The state court said officers took Boyer from his home to police headquarters and questioned him at length before there was sufficient evidence to justify an arrest. Then, after Boyer called a halt to the questioning by asserting his right to silence and legal counsel, police improperly resumed the interrogation in violation of his rights, the court said.

A new trial is scheduled to begin in Orange County Superior Court on March 13.

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