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Man with psychiatric disability leaves S. Carolina death row as state firing squad trial starts
This photo shows the state’s death chamber in Columbia, S.C., including the electric chair, right, and a firing squad chair, left.

A South Carolina inmate who killed four people in two states is off death row after a federal appeals court ruled the judge who sentenced him to die nearly two decades ago did not consider his abusive childhood or mental illness.

Allen either was sent or volunteered to go to a psychiatric hospital seven times in five years leading up to the crimes he was convicted of when he was 22 years old. His mother was called when he was on the roof of the grocery store where he had just been fired threating to jump.

“When she arrived a couple of hours later, she laughed and walked away,” Allen’s medical records noted.

Yet state judge G. Thomas Cooper sentenced Allen to death, saying he agreed with some prosecution experts who thought Allen was faking his psychiatric problems. Two of the three federal appeals judges disagreed. “The record in this case leaves us with grave doubt that excluding, ignoring, or overlooking Allen’s serious mental illness and history of childhood abuse had no substantial and injurious effect or influence on the outcome of the sentencing proceeding,” they wrote.

Read more about Allen and the firing squad trial at The Charlotte Observer

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