WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated a death sentence for a neo-Nazi convicted of murdering three men 25 years ago.
The justices, by a 6-3 vote, threw out a federal appeals court ruling ordering a new sentencing hearing for Frank Spisak, an Ohio man who was found guilty in the shooting deaths of the three men at the Cleveland State University campus over a seven-month period in 1982.
The high court twice last term chastised federal appeals courts for second-guessing the decisions of trial judges in murder cases. The justices referred to those cases Tuesday in their brief order. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens would have left the appellate ruling undisturbed.
The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals last year ordered a new sentencing hearing for Spisak, saying he received ineffective counsel during the sentencing phase of his trial, and that a judge's instructions to the jury were unconstitutional.
Spisak's trial in June 1983 turned into a racially and sexually charged public spectacle in which he grew an Adolf Hitler-style mustache and carried a copy of Hitler's book "Mein Kampf." He said he was an agent of God in a war against blacks and Jews.
After the trial judge sentenced him to death, Spisak responded with a two-minute tirade about white supremacy, ending it with a vigorous "Heil Hitler" salute.
The case is Hudson v. Spisak, 06-1535.