Convicted killer wins hearing over judicial bias claim
December 2, 2004
The Nevada Supreme Court ruled Thursday a convicted killer is entitled to a hearing over claims the judge was biased and interfered in his psychiatric evaluation.
Jimmy Kirksey claims Judge Jack Lehman may have gone so far as to write the psychiatric report, ruling Kirksey competent to stand trial.
Kirksey is on death row for beating and kicking Michael Foxx to death in 1988. He pleaded guilty, refused to let his court-appointed counsel present mitigating evidence and was sentenced to die by a three-judge panel.
His legal team is now fighting the conviction and sentence on several grounds and won a district court ruling he should get a full evidentiary hearing.
The Supreme Court refused to open the door that wide Thursday. But the court did rule Kirksey’s lawyers should get a hearing into Judge Lehman’s participation in the psychiatric report. Psychiatrist Franklin Master originally ruled Kirksey was highly intelligent but suffered from major depression with suicidal tendencies and would not be competent for trial.
Judge Lehman told the parties he would get a supplemental report from the doctor and, the next day, submitted a report in which Master stated that Kirksey was competent to assist his attorney at trial.
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His lawyers argue that report appears to have been typed by the Judge’s secretary and may have been drafted by Judge Lehman, not by Master. The report was not on the doctor’s letterhead and actually misspells the psychiatrist’s name. Lehman’s letter to the attorneys in the case contains the same misspelling.
Dr. Master told lawyers it is quite possible the judge prepared the letter for his signature.
The high court panel of justices Bob Rose, Bill Maupin and Michael Douglas ruled Kirksey’s lawyers are entitled to a hearing on possible judicial bias. They said other claims by his lawyers could be raised separately if they win on that score – including his claim of mental retardation.