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The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday overturned the conviction of a man who has spent nearly two decades on death row, saying his lawyer badly mangled an alibi defense and calling into question the evidence used to convict him. The ineffective assistance of counsel ruling came one day after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of a Virginia man whose lawyer failed to investigate his miserable childhood and present it to the jury as mitigating evidence. Despite that, the state will consider appealing Friday’s decision. “We will seriously look at pursuing this further. He is a very dangerous, incredibly dangerous, predator,” said Deputy Attorney General Adrianne Denault. Denault said Rodney Alcala is one of the most violent criminals she’s seen in more than a decade of capital litigation. Earlier this month, Los Angeles County authorities filed charges against Alcala involving the Dec. 16, 1977, rape and killing of a nurse in her apartment. “This was a recent filing. It’s a cold case hit,” Denault said. The 1977 case pre-dates by two years the murder of a 12-year-old girl that was at the center of the case reviewed by the Ninth Circuit. If Alcala v. Woodford, 03 C.D.O.S. 5645, is not appealed, Orange County prosecutors could still retry Alcala. It would be his third trial. The first was overturned by the California Supreme Court in 1984, which held that evidence of Alcala’s criminal record should not have been introduced at trial. The Ninth Circuit faulted Alcala’s trial attorney for failing to produce an available witness that could definitively establish Alcala’s presence at Knott’s Berry Farm on the day Robin Samsoe disappeared on her way to a ballet lesson. Witnesses used by the defense were hazy on precise dates and times, but one witness had told a defense investigator that she could establish Alcala’s presence at the amusement park. That witness was never called. “Trial counsel made a sound strategic choice to present an alibi defense, but nonetheless failed in his duty to present that defense reasonably and competently,” Senior Judge Dorothy W. Nelson wrote. “When defense counsel undertakes to establish an alibi, but does not present available evidence of the time or even the date of the alibi, or offer a strategic reason for failing to do so, his actions are unreasonable.” In addition, a key prosecution witness had been hypnotized � a practiced later barred by the California Supreme Court — during several police interviews. The witnesses’ testimony from the first trial was re-introduced after she declared at the second trial that she had lost her memory of the events. Alcala’s attorney, Carmel solo Jerry Newman, said there were several problems with Alcala’s second trial. “I would think . . . that people who look at this case would say this trial was not fair on any number of levels,” Newman said. The panel, which included Judges Raymond Fisher and Kim McLane Wardlaw, also faulted Alcala’s trial counsel for failing to investigate the crime scene, instead relying on the prosecution’s investigation. Los Angeles County District Attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said Alcala has yet to make an appearance on the new charges. “We’re very anxious to get him into court,” Gibbons said. Newman said he did not know about the new charges against his client.

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