PHOENIX (AP) - A federal appeals court has upheld the murder conviction and vacated the death sentence of an Arizona man for a 1995 killing. The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Friday that 59-year-old Michael Joe Murdaugh should get a new sentencing hearing. Murdaugh was convicted in January 2000 and sentenced to death in November 2001. The appeals court noted that he was sentenced by a judge instead of a jury. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2002 held that juries must decide whether a defendant is eligible for the death penalty. Murdaugh was accused of severely beating a man and robbing him of $180 and a cellphone.
The victim's body was taken to northern Arizona, where it was mutilated and buried.
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