14 January 2018 :
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has overturned the death sentence imposed on Robert Allen Poyson, 40, White. The court ruled that that Arizona had applied "an unconstitutional causal nexus test to his mitigating evidence"—meaning that the court had required him to show that his mitigating evidence had a link to the crime before the jury could consider it grounds to spare his life. Poyson, then 19, on Aug. 13, 1996 killed Robert Delahunt, 15, Leta Kagen, 39, and Roland Wear, 50. Poyson was convicted in Mohave County for the triple murders in March 1998, and sentenced to death on November 20, 1998. At sentencing, the defense cited Poyson's history of drug and alcohol abuse, his drug-addicted mother and abusive stepfathers, and a diagnosed personality disorder as some of the many mitigating circumstances that should have argued against imposition of the death penalty. But the trial court said those did not outweigh the 3 aggravating factors: multiple deaths, financial gain and the "especially cruel, heinous or depraved" nature of the killings. The state Supreme Court upheld the sentence in 2000, noting that Poyson had presented evidence of many problems in his past but adding that none appeared to have "rendered him unable to control his conduct" on the night of the murders. The same 9th Circuit panel that ruled Friday upheld Poyson's sentence in 2013. But the panel reversed itself - and Poyson's death sentence - on Friday, saying rulings by the 9th Circuit and by the U.S. Supreme Court in the intervening years ruled that Arizona courts' policy of giving no weight to mitigating circumstance that don't have a direct link to the crime was unconstitutional. Co-defendant Frank Anderson (48 at the time) was also sentenced to death. The other co-defendant Kimberly Lane, (15 at the time) has since been released from prison after testifying against Anderson and Poyson.