Deadhead Death Penalty Case Overturned

Tuesday, Sep 15, 2009  |  Updated 3:00 PM PDT
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Deadhead Death Penalty Case Overturned

A double homicide conviction from 1985 is tossed out of court.

A federal judge has overturned the conviction and death penalty of a man found guilty of killing two Grateful Dead fans in 1985 at a Berkeley homeless camp.

The ruling from a San Francisco judge was issued last week, but became public Tuesday.

In it U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel said 55-year-old Ralph International Thomas was denied a fair trial because his defense attorney was incompetent.

Thomas was convicted in the murders of 22-year-old Mary Gioia and 18-year-old Greg Kniffen, who were beaten and shot in August 1985.

The so-called Deadheads were staying at the homeless camp prior to attending a Grateful Dead concert.

Thomas' attorney, A.J. Kutchins, said Tuesday his client is gravely ill and was recently moved to a prison hospital.

The state attorney general's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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