Death penalty overturned for killer of WWII hero

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ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) -- Convicted of killing a highly decorated Marine Corps flying ace, Jesse Fanus was the youngest person on Oregon's Death Row when he was sentenced to death in 1999 at age 19. Now a Marion County judge has overturned that sentence.

The 32-year-old Fanus argued that lawyer Mark Hendershott failed to adequately represent him both at trial and at his sentencing. Judge Pamela Abernethy rejected his claim in regard to the trial. However, in a ruling published Dec. 15, the judge found that Hendershott failed to portray the abuse Fanus suffered as a youth, which might swayed have jurors deciding his punishment.

Douglas County District Attorney Rick Wesenberg told the Roseburg News-Review (http://bit.ly/ssyn0Z ) on Tuesday that his office will vigorously pursue a death sentence if a new sentencing hearing is required. Hendershott said he believes he adequately represented his client.

Gov. John Kitzhaber has ordered a halt to all executions as long as he is in office.

Fanus was convicted of gunning down retired Maj. Gen. Marion Carl on June 28, 1998, in the 82-year-old pilot's southern Oregon home. The young man stole cash and a car in the break-in.

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Information from: The News-Review, http://www.nrtoday.com