Court reinstates death sentence for Ohio neo-Nazi

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has reinstated for a second time the death sentence of a neo-Nazi convicted of murdering three men in Ohio more than a quarter century ago.

The justices ruled unanimously Tuesday that a federal appeals court wrongly set aside the death sentence of Frank Spisak.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati found Spisak’s trial lawyer was ineffective and that his jury received faulty sentencing instructions.

In an opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer, the high court said the 6th Circuit should have deferred to state court rulings that upheld Spisak’s death sentence.

Spisak was convicted of three murders at Cleveland State University over a seven-month period in 1982 — crimes he said were motivated by his hatred of gays, blacks and Jews. At the same time, Spisak claimed his crimes were sparked by mental illness related to confusion about his sexual identity. He wants to have surgery to become a woman.

The 1983 trial became a public spectacle as Spisak celebrated his killings in court and openly discussed his hateful views. He even grew a Hitler-style mustache, carried a copy of Hitler’s book, “Mein Kampf” during the proceedings and gave the Nazi salute to the jury.

The 6th Circuit once before had thrown out Spisak’s sentence only to be reversed by the Supreme Court.

The case is Smith v. Spisak, 08-724.