Former Death Row Inmate Re-Sentenced

Former Death Row Inmate Re-Sentenced

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Sandra Yi ReportingLoni Deland: "Goes without saying, he was extremely pleased."

Utah's oldest and longest serving death row inmate is now headed for prison. Elroy Tillman will serve a life sentence with the possibility of parole. The new sentence comes four months after the state Supreme Court overturned his death sentence.

This is a big victory for Elroy Tillman, who has spent 20 years awaiting execution.

Loni DeLand, Tillman's Attorney: "We ended an 18-year fight for me, 23 for Elroy. Kind of speaks for itself."

In court this morning DeLand hugged his client. When the judge asked if Tillman had anything to say, he said no comment. But his attorney says Tillman is extremely pleased.

Tillman was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1982 murder of Mark Schoenfeld. The victim was bludgeoned with an ax and set on fire in his Sugar House home. Two years ago a judge vacated Tillman's death sentence after his attorney argued important evidence was withheld from the defense during the trial. Lie detector tests showed a key witness in the case lied about her involvement in the murder.

Then last week, Utah's Attorney General said he will no longer seek the death penalty for Tillman. The state says this brings finality to the court proceedings, which have gone on for so many years.

C.C. Horton, Attorney General's Office: "We are now at a point where that finality is important and that's what one of the things the victims and family members mentioned as well. And so the efforts are now going to be put to going to the board of pardons, when they do set a hearing, and making the strongest case that Mr. Tillman should never be released from prison."

The "life without parole" law had not yet passed when Tillman committed his crime, so he is now eligible for parole. His attorney didn't know how soon a parole hearing would be set.

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