November 8, 2011 / 12:36 AM / 8 years ago

Court reinstates death sentence in Ohio "buried alive" case

(Reuters) - The Supreme Court reinstated the murder conviction and death sentence on Monday of an Ohio man who confessed to killing his roommate by burying him alive in 1993, and whose lawyers had argued was tricked into admitting guilt.

Lawyers for Archie Dixon said that police violated his rights, manipulating him into implicating himself, by questioning him during an early stage of the investigation without telling him he had a right to remain silent.

Dixon subsequently confessed to the murder after being advised of his rights.

Dixon and his accomplice, Tim Hoffner, were ultimately convicted of murder, kidnapping, robbery and forgery. Prosecutors said they beat Dixon’s former roommate, 22-year-old Chris Hammer, tied him up and then buried him alive in a wooded area outside Toledo in 1993 in order to steal his car.

Dixon then used Hammer’s birth certificate and social security card to obtain a state identification in Hammer’s name, which he used to establish ownership of the vehicle and to sell it for $2,800.

Defense lawyers had sought to have Dixon’s admission suppressed, arguing the strategy police had used early on to question Dixon without advising him of his rights rendered his subsequent confession inadmissible.

Last December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed, throwing out the conviction and ordering a new trial. But on Monday, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate decision and upheld Dixon’s conviction and sentence.

“There is no evidence that any of Dixon’s statements was the product of actual coercion,” the justices wrote in an unsigned opinion.

Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Cynthia Johnston

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