Man stands trial for a 3rd time on decades-old double murder
LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — A suspect in a decades-old double murder is standing trial for a third time this week in Idaho.
Mark Lankford has already been convicted twice of the 1983 beating deaths of 27-year-old U.S. Marine Capt. Robert Bravence and his 25-year-old wife, Cheryl Bravence, in north-central Idaho, but both convictions have been overturned on appeal.
The Lewiston Tribune reports jury selection for his third trial was set to begin Monday. Lankford’s courtroom history won’t be brought up in the trial, and the proceeding has been moved to Canyon County in southwestern Idaho in an effort to find jurors who are unfamiliar with the case.
He’s facing two counts of first-degree murder, and has pleaded not guilty.
Mark Lankford and his younger brother, Bryan Lankford, were convicted of killing of the couple from El Paso, Texas, while they were camping in northern Idaho.
Authorities said the brothers hid the bodies of the couple in the Idaho wilderness after clubbing them to death and took their vehicle, money and credit cards on a trip to California.
The bodies were discovered three months later, and the brothers were apprehended when they returned to their home state of Texas. Each brother has blamed the other for the crime.
Bryan Lankford is serving a life sentence, and was denied parole earlier this year.
Mark Lankford, who spent more than two decades on death row, was granted a new trial in 2007 after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled he must be retried or released because of a jury instruction error from the 1984 trial.
In the new trial in 2008, an Idaho County jury convicted Mark Lankford of two counts of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without possibility of parole.
But in July 2016 the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that Mark Lankford was entitled to a new trial because prosecutors violated his constitutional rights to a fair trial.
In the opinion, the high court said prosecutors failed to correct false testimony during Mark Lankford’s second trial and did not disclose that they had made additional promises in connection with a key state witness, Lane Thomas.
Thomas shared a unit with Lankford in the Latah County Jail, and testified in 2008 that Mark Lankford admitted to him while they were both incarcerated that he killed the Bravences.
Authorities say Thomas could not be located to testify at the third trial. In all, about 18 witnesses could not be found or are deceased, so transcripts from previous trials will be read into the record in front of the jury.
Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com