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‘The highest court in the land.’

When a Judge uses Marijuana is the Trial Unfair?

What do you get when you combine a dope-smoking judge, a romantic interlude between a prosecutor and defence counsel, a “psychic tip” which leads police to the murderer and a “functionally retarded” defendant with an explosive personality disorder?

The case that led a federal appeals court to overturn death sentences in Arizona was described in the ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as “the raw material from which legal fiction is forged:

“A vicious murder, an anonymous psychic tip, a romantic encounter that jeopardised a plea agreement, an allegedly incompetent defence and a death sentence imposed by a purportedly drug-addled judge.”

The facts of the crime are brutal. But the legal proceedings that followed caused the court to quote Mark Twain, who observed that “truth is often stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense.”

Warren Summerlin was convicted of the 1981 killing of Brenna Bailey, a 36-year-old finance company administrator who had come to his house to discuss money owed on a loan. Her partially nude body was found about a mile away from the Summerlin home in Tempe, Arizona, a day after she disappeared.

Before the body was discovered, a police tip line received a call from Summerlin’s mother-in-law accusing him of murder based on her daughter’s psychic abilities.

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