BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- An inmate who was sentenced to death for killing a bank teller in eastern Idaho will get another chance to argue that he deserves a lesser sentence under a new ruling from the Idaho Supreme Court.
Timothy Dunlap was sentenced to death for shooting 23-year-old Tonya Crane to death during a Soda Springs bank robbery in 1991. He also has been sentenced to death in Ohio for killing his girlfriend, Belinda Bolanos, with a crossbow just 10 days before Crane's murder.
Dunlap contends his attorneys didn't adequately investigate mitigating factors, such as his mental illness, during his sentencing hearing. On Tuesday the Idaho Supreme Court issued a ruling rejecting most of his claims but finding that he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on claims related to his mental health.
Dunlap has had several hearings on various aspects of his trial and sentence already. He was originally sentenced to death in Idaho in 1992, and in 2005 the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that procedural mistakes made after he entered his plea entitled him to a new sentencing hearing. In 2006, a jury again sentenced him to die.
In his most recent appeal, Dunlap argued more than a dozen issues and most of those claims were rejected by the Idaho Supreme Court. But Justice Joel Horton, writing for the unanimous court, said in the ruling that there were some issues of material fact that needed closer examination.
Among them were Dunlap's contention that his attorneys didn't adequately investigate mitigating factors that could have encouraged a jury to give him a lesser sentence. Specifically, Dunlap said the attorneys didn't do enough to investigate his family and background, his mental illness and the connection between his medications and his behavior, and his level of remorse. He also said his attorneys failed to adequately rebut the state's theory that he was simply malingering, not seriously mentally ill.
Dunlap also cited a civil lawsuit he filed against the state several years ago as proof that the Idaho Attorney General withheld evidence that would have helped him during the sentencing hearing. In that claim, Dunlap noted after he sued Idaho prison officials for refusing to move him out of solitary confinement, the prison officials defended their position by saying he needed the restrictive housing because of his mental illness.
Dunlap said that the Idaho Attorney General's office represented the prison officials in defending the lawsuit and also represented state prosecutors in his sentencing hearing, and so should have turned over evidence -- the prison officials' statements about his mental health -- to Dunlap's attorneys before he was sentenced.
Those claims merited a close look, the high court decided.
"The evidence in question here is related to Dunlap's mental health, which was the primary focus of the defense at sentencing," Horton wrote. "Although we express no opinion regarding the merits of Dunlap's claims, it is clear that an evidentiary hearing was required to determine whether, taken as a whole, there is a reasonable likelihood that timely disclosure of this evidence would have had a substantial effect on Dunlap's mitigation case, especially with respect to rebutting the state's theory that Dunlap was a malingerer."
The court ordered that an evidentiary hearing on both matters be held in state court.