capital punishment

Supreme Court Gives Gay Man’s Killer Robert Van Hook New Chance to Die


Guess who gets to die again? Robert Van Hook (pictured), the convicted murderer of David Self, who was strangled and stabbed to death after Van Hook met him in a Cincinnati gay bar with the intent to rob him. And who made the call that Van Hook should once again face the death penalty? Oh, just a small committee of people some know as the U.S. Supreme Court.

Reversing a federal court appeal decision that said Van Hook lacked sufficient defense counsel during the sentencing portion of his 1985 trial. Columbus Dispatch:

The 10-page opinion was highly critical of the appeals court. The justices wrote that it was “clear that Van Hook’s attorneys met the constitutional minimum of competence.”

In particular, the justices criticized the lower court for basing its ruling on guidelines for defense lawyers issued in 2003 by the American Bar Association. The guidelines were issued nearly 20 years after Van Hook’s trial.

The justices wrote that the appeals court “treated the ABA’s 2003 guidelines not merely as evidence of what reasonably diligent attorneys would do, but as inexorable commands with which all capital defense counsel” must comply.

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray had asked the high court to overturn the appeals court decision. In a statement, Cordray said he was “very pleased with the court’s decision. The trial court learned extensive details about Mr. Van Hook’s difficult childhood and upbringing, but the court still elected to impose a death sentence. That decision was appropriate given the horrific nature of the murder in this case.”

Well, that and: “Van Hook had a long history of luring gay men into secluded settings to rob them, the Supreme Court noted.”