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California Briefing / Los Angeles

Murder verdict is thrown out

July 08, 2009|Carol J. Williams

A federal appeals court Tuesday threw out the murder conviction in the strangling death of Tracey Biletnikoff, daughter of NFL star Fred Biletnikoff, and ordered a new trial for the confessed killer.

Mohammed Haroon Ali's conviction was overturned by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals because prosecutors had dismissed the only two African Americans in the jury pool and made "wholly unpersuasive" arguments that the decisions weren't based on race.

Ali admitted to strangling Biletnikoff, then 20, in 1999. He pleaded not guilty at the 2001 jury trial in San Mateo County at which he was convicted and sentenced to 55 years to life for first-degree murder.

His conviction was upheld in state courts, and his federal court petition for habeas corpus relief was denied in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in 2005.

The 9th Circuit panel, made up of three federal judges appointed by President Clinton, sent the case back for retrial.

- Carol Williams

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