SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal appeals court has ordered a new trial or the release from prison of a man convicted of killing a Sacramento minister and renowned gay rights activist in 1999.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that investigators wrongfully ignored Tio Dinero Sessoms' request for a lawyer.
Sessoms confessed to participating with two others in the robbing and killing of Edward R. Sherriff. A jury convicted him of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to life without parole.
The specially appointed 11-judge panel of the court was divided 6-5 to order a new trial or his release. The dissenters said Sessoms' request for legal counsel was too vague to be understood.
The Sacramento County district attorney's office said it was reviewing the decision before deciding the next step.