The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a man accused of murdering his estranged wife and burying her body in a park, a case that drew national attention to the way courts can treat ex-husbands and wives.
In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling that found bond insufficient to fund the bond that would be required to keep Kenneth Charles Lee and his wife, Brittany, imprisoned.
The decision was a victory for Lee, a former boxer who had been jailed since February for killing his wife and mutilating her body.
Lee was convicted of first-degree murder in November and sentenced to life in prison.
He had been scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 12 but was moved up to Jan. 13 to allow more time for appeals.
Lee is now free on bond pending a Dec. 11 sentencing hearing.
Lee’s lawyers had argued that he did not meet the requirements for bond in order to be eligible for bond.
The appeals court disagreed, saying the state of Maryland, which is responsible for Lee’s bond, failed to provide sufficient information on Lee’s record.
The case is being heard by Chief Justice John Roberts, who has not been shy about his views on the death penalty.
The court’s decision may have ramifications for other states, he said, saying it would “have profound ramifications for how the death-penalty system works in other states and how it should work in the United States.”
In the majority opinion, Roberts said that a person who is convicted of murder must be held to a higher standard than others who are convicted of similar crimes.
The defendant must be “clearly beyond doubt that he intended to kill the victim and that he intends to use his death to carry out his goal,” Roberts wrote.
Lee argued in his brief that he was not a “murderer” because he didn’t kill his wife.
In a separate appeal, Lee argued that the death sentence would violate his rights under the Eighth Amendment, which guarantees an accused person the right to a fair trial.