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The Region

March 17, 1986

The California Supreme Court has refused to reconsider its reversal of the death penalty in a macabre San Diego murder case. State prosecutors asked justices to rehear the case of Bernard Lee Hamilton, whose death sentence was overturned along with 10 other capital sentences on New Year's Eve. Prosecutors needed four votes to have the Hamilton case reconsidered, but only received two, those of Justices Malcolm Lucas and Edward Panelli. Hamilton was convicted in the 1979 slaying of Eleanore F. Buchanan, a young mother whose head and hands had been cut off after she was stabbed to death. The high court, which confirmed Hamilton's murder conviction, reasoned in its reversal that the trial court failed to instruct the jury during the penalty phase that they must find that Hamilton clearly intended to kill his victim. State prosecutors have sought reconsideration of several close votes in the 11 death penalty cases because of the recent retirement of retired Justice Otto Kaus, who often voted against the death penalty.

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