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Florida Supreme Court Vacates Killer’s Death Sentence

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One of President Obama's nominees is Florida state judge Darrin Gayles, who would be the first openly gay black man to serve on the federal bench if confirmed by the Senate.  (credit: Thinkstock)

One of President Obama’s nominees is Florida state judge Darrin Gayles, who would be the first openly gay black man to serve on the federal bench if confirmed by the Senate. (credit: Thinkstock)

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Supreme Court has vacated the death sentence of a man convicted of killing a woman in Lake County.

The justices unanimously upheld Eric Simmons’ first-degree murder conviction on Thursday for the 2001 slaying but ordered a new sentencing hearing by a 5-2 vote.

The majority ruled Simmons’ lawyers failed to fully investigate and present mitigating evidence. That includes his low intelligence, a brain injury suffered as a child and substance abuse.

Simmons also received two life sentences for kidnapping and sexual battery.

Deborah Tressler was beaten and stabbed. Her body was found in a wooded area in Sorrento.

Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston dissented on the sentencing issue. They noted Simmons and his family asked lawyers not present anything embarrassing or bad about him.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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