HARRISBURG, Pa. — A federal judge overturned the murder convictions of a man on death row for shooting two other men in a Harrisburg bar in 2001.
Court documents show Chief Judge Christopher Connor of the U.S. District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled Wednesday that Samuel Randolph IV, now 48, was unfairly denied the right to be represented by the lawyer of his choice in weeks leading up to his 2003 trial in Dauphin County Court.
The Dauphin County judge refused to grant a delay in trial after Randolph hired a new attorney after growing dissatisfied with his court-appointed public defender, whom he accused of not having his best interests in mind.
Shortly before his trial was scheduled to begin, Randolph inherited enough money to hire an attorney privately, but the judge refused to delay the trial to allow the attorney time to review the evidence.
Randolph wound up being defended by the appointed attorney, and after his conviction, represented himself during the penalty phase, where he presented no arguments. He received a death sentence.
In his review of the case, Connor found "not a single countervailing reason" for a denial of the request to delay the trial.
Randolph is accused of killing Thomas Easter and Anthony Burton and wounding five other people at Todd and Pat's Bar in Harrisburg on Sept. 19, 2001.
Police said Randolph had tried to kill the victims twice before after the three engaged in a fight 18 days earlier.
Following the federal ruling, Dauphin County prosecutors have 90 days to determine whether to retry Randolph on the charges.
Conner’s decision could be appealed to the 3rd U.S. Court of Appeals.