Justices reverse death sentence for 'Antichrist' killer
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 3:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 3:35 p.m.
A young man who says he fatally shot a retired police officer because he thought the "A'' on the victim's cap meant he was the "Antichrist" had his death sentence reduced Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court.
The justices unanimously ordered that Ryan Green, instead, be sentenced to life in prison without parole based on evidence he has suffered for years from schizophrenic disorders. A Pensacola jury had rejected his insanity plea in convicting Green of first-degree murder, but he appealed only his sentence.
Green, 24, who claimed he was "the son of God," killed retired Pensacola police officer James Hallman while the victim was out taking a walk on Feb. 23, 2003. He also had wounded another man and shot a bull he said had spoken to him earlier that day.
"Green said be believed the 'A' on the front of Hallman's University of Alabama hat stood for the 'Antichrist,'" the justices wrote in an unsigned opinion. "Green also said he interpreted Hallman's body language as indicating that he wanted to die and that he heard a voice that told him Hallman wanted to be killed."
The high court rejected the trial judge's finding that Green killed Hallman to avoid arrest, one of two aggravating factors cited to justify the death sentence. The jury also had voted 10-2 to recommend death.
The justices wrote that trial evidence indicated Green could have had other motives — self-defense or eliminating Hallman as a witness to his own suicide — so that avoiding arrest couldn't be proven as the dominant reason he killed the former policeman.
That left only one aggravating factor — the attempted murder of Christopher Phipps — and that wasn't enough to sustain a death sentence when weighed against several strong mitigating factors.
They include the trial judge's findings that Green was under the influence of extreme mental and emotional disturbance, his capacity to conform to the requirements of law was substantially impaired and he acted under extreme duress.
The justices concluded those and other mitigating aspects, including no significant prior criminal record and a history of drug abuse and mental illness, were enough to reverse his death sentence even if they had upheld both aggravating factors.
At his trial, Green also received two consecutive life terms for attempting to murder Phipps at his home and robbing him with a weapon. Green stole a gun from the home and Phipps' car.
Green testified he had set out to take his own life but the talking bull, religious signs, colors and symbols influenced him to shoot Hallman and Phipps.
He initially had been declared mentally incompetent to stand trial, but after a year of treatment he was found competent and convicted.
Three mental health experts testified at his trial that he suffered from untreated schizoaffective disorder.
One, though, concluded he was sane when he shot both men. Another testified he was sane when he shot Phipps but uncertain if he was when he killed Hallman. The third said he wasn't sure if he was sane during either shooting.
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