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Another White Murderer Loses Black Jury Protest

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A white supremacist who was convicted of killing an Arkansas gun dealer and his family was properly sentenced to death, the 8th Circuit ruled.

Daniel Lewis Lee, a member of the Aryan People's Resistance, was convicted along with Chevie Kehoe in the 1996 murders of William and Nancy Mueller and the wife's 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell. Kehoe was sentenced to life without parole, while Lee was given the death penalty.

Lee appealed his sentence, claiming ineffective counsel and that the death penalty sentence was unconstitutional because it was arbitrarily enforced. Lee claimed his counsel's strategy of going with a mostly black jury prejudiced the outcome of the trial.

On the heels of nixing Kehoe's similar claims about the black jurors last month, a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit decided Friday to affirm Lee's sentence.

"The record evidence does not show that any of the jurors who served were biased by trial counsel's decision to strike Caucasian venire members," Judge Diana Murphy wrote for the court. "Bias will not be presumed simply because some jurors were of a different race than the defendant. One venire member in Lee's case was excused after he expressed concern that he would be biased by the defendants' racism, but the other empaneled jurors confirmed their impartiality. While some of Lee's body tattoos were visible to the jury and the government introduced photographs of others, the record does not indicate that 'the individual jurors who tried [Lee] were not impartial.' Nothing in the record shows that the jury made its decisions on anything other than the evidence presented. Lee's counsel was 'present and active' during voir dire and actively involved throughout trial. Lee has not shown that his defense counsel's use of racially motivated peremptory strikes entirely denied him of the assistance of counsel. We conclude that Lee has not shown that his counsel's offensive use of peremptory strikes during voir dire resulted in prejudice to him.

"The difference between Lee's sentence of death and Kehoe's sentence of life imprisonment does not show that Lee was prejudiced by counsel's actions," the ruling continues. "The evidence against Lee and Kehoe was not identical, and the fact that the jury sentenced the two defendants differently supports that the jury was not simply motivated by racism to impose the death penalty. The jury accepted Kehoe's mitigation case, believing that he had been indoctrinated from a young age and would not be a future danger. By contrast, the jury rejected Lee's arguments for mitigation and instead found that he would be a future danger. The district court explained to the jury that both defendants had strong racist beliefs, and the differing sentences for the two men shows that the jury impartially weighed the aggravating and mitigating factors to determine the appropriate sentence for each defendant."

Judges Lavenski Smith and Raymond Gruender concurred with Murphy.

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