Appeals panel tosses Ariz. man's death sentence

July 7, 2011 - 2:44 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — An appeals panel has thrown out the death sentence of an Arizona man convicted in the 1992 attempted rape and killing of a librarian in the Phoenix suburb of Buckeye.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Thursday that the judge presiding over the trial and sentencing of Richard Hurles acted improperly and demonstrated potential bias.

Hurles was convicted of the attempted sexual assault and first-degree murder of Kay Blanton, who was stabbed 37 times at a Buckeye library in 1992.

Two judges on the panel determined Judge Ruth Hilliard showed potential bias in Hurles' case even before trial, violating his right to due process. A third judge disagreed.

Assistant Attorney General Kent Cattani says he'll likely request a hearing by the full 9th Circuit while simultaneously appealing the panel's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.