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Death Sentence Upheld for Killer of Gay Man


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday reinstated the death sentence of a man who was found guilty of killing a man he met at a gay bar in 1985.

Robert Van Hook's attorneys had argued before the 6th U.S. circuit court of appeals in Cincinnati that the lawyers who represented him during his sentencing process more than 20 years ago were ineffective. The circuit court agreed and commuted Van Hook's death sentence.

But in an unsigned opinion the Supreme Court justices wrote that the circuit court had improperly used guidelines established by the American Bar Association 18 years after the murder of David Self.

Van Hook, now 49, went to a gay bar in Cincinnati in 1985 looking for someone to rob and met Self. According to the justices' decision, the two drank for hours, then returned to Self's apartment. Van Hook "lured Self into a vulnerable position," strangled him, and then stabbed him to death with a kitchen knife before mutilating his body. Before fleeing with Self's valuables, Van Hook attempted to cover his tracks, stuffing the knife and other items into the body and smearing fingerprints he had left behind. Six weeks later, police found him in Florida, where he confessed.

Van Hook waived his right to a jury trial, and he was found guilty of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery. A trial court dealt him the death penalty, and he has since requested several appeals over the past two decades.

According to the Associated Press, Keith Yeazel, an attorney for Van Hook, said another appeal issue on his client's behalf is still pending before the 6th circuit court.

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