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Novel Appeal From Death Row Inmate

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Robert Ybarra has been on death row since his conviction in a 1979 murder.

Robert Ybarra has been on death row since his conviction in a 1979 murder.

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(LAS VEGAS  KXNT)–The attorney for a Nevada death row inmate has raised a novel basis for appeal–saying elected judges prevent any such defendant from receiving a fair trial.

Robert Ybarra was convicted of murdering a 15 year old girl in 1979. Nancy Griffith was raped, doused with gasoline and set on fire. Now Ybarra’s lawyer says that because judges in Nevada are elected, its impossible for anyone charged with such a heinous crime to get a fair trial. Public defender Michael Pescetta says voters would not tolerate any judge they feel is soft on crime.

But the state attorney general’s office says regardless of the legal argument, its too late for Ybarra’s lawyers to raise the issue.

Ybarra admitted burning the girl, but denied he raped and beat her. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but was found competent for trial and was sentenced to death after being convicted of first-degree murder and sexual assault. The attack on the girl took place about 20 miles from Ely, Nevada. News accounts said that despite being badly burned, Griffith walked a mile before she was found by two fishermen.

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