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Appellate court overturns South Carolina man's death sentence

July 26 (UPI) -- A federal appellate court on Tuesday overturned the death sentence of a man convicted of killing four people in North Carolina and South Carolina two decades ago.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Quincy Allen, 42, should receive a new sentence because the judge in his murder trial failed to take mitigating evidence into consideration when sentencing him in 2005.

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Allen went on a killing spree in 2002 that left four people dead and one person injured in the two states. He was sentenced to death in South Carolina after pleading guilty to killing Dale Hall on July 10 and Jedediah Harr on Aug. 8. He also shot and injured a man sleeping on a bench in a park.

Allen also pleaded guilty to two murders at a North Carolina convenience store -- Richard Hawks and Robert Roush -- on Aug. 12. He received life in prison for those two shootings.

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Police arrested Allen Aug. 14 after discovering him sleeping in a vehicle in Mitchell County, Texas.

The appellate court, by a vote of 2-1, said that if Allen's trial judge in the South Carolina case had fully considered all evidence favorable to him, he might not have sentenced him to death.

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The panel said the judge did not take into consideration Allen's severe mental illness, namely a diagnosis of rumination, in which a person fixates on negative ideas. The appellate court blamed this on testimony from experts who disagreed as to Allen's mental illness.

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"The sentencing decision likely would be different if the sentencing judge had not excluded, ignored or overlooked this disorder," the majority opinion read.

"Notably, despite a lengthy discussion about the depravity of Allen's crimes, the sentencing judge still made this unequivocal proclamation that Allen 'would have received [a] life sentence' had trial counsel proven 'serious mental illness.'"

The panel said the judge also failed to consider Allen's history of abuse as a child.

"Proper consideration of Allen's thorough case of an abusive and unstable childhood may very well have also changed the sentencing decision."

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