PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge Tuesday threw out the death sentence of an inmate convicted of strangling his cellmate nearly a decade ago.
U.S. District Judge Malcolm Muir ruled that prosecutors should have disclosed to David Paul Hammer's lawyers the existence of four interviews that may have supported Hammer's claim that he used rope made from bedsheets for bondage sex.
The interviews might have led the jury to conclude that Hammer did not engage in substantial planning before he killed bank robber Andrew Marti at Allenwood Federal Penitentiary in 1996, Muir said. The judge ordered a new sentencing hearing.
Prosecutors argued that Hammer killed Marti after the two agreed to stage a hostage-type scenario in which Marti was tied to a bunk as a way to speed Marti's transfer to a different federal prison.
Hammer has denied that, saying he and Marti used the ropes "for other purposes," Muir wrote. Hammer told doctors that he and Marti engaged in sexual activity, the judge said.
Muir rejected Hammer's claim that he was mentally incompetent when he pleaded guilty in 1998 or when he sought to abandon his appeals.
Ron Travis, who represented Hammer, said he was "happy that at least the death penalty was set aside for the moment."
Phone messages seeking comment from federal prosecutors were not immediately returned.
Hammer, 47, is being held at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. At the time of the slaying, he was in federal prison after being charged with escape.