A federal appeals court has overturned one of two death penalties against Vernon Brown for separate St. Louis murders in the mid-1980s. The court, ruling on the death sentence handed down during the penalty phase of Brown’s trial for the 1985 murder of Synetta Ford, said a supportive letter from Brown’s stepbrother was wrongly kept from jurors. Prosecutors now have to decide whether to retry the penalty phase or convert the sentence to life without parole. Brown’s death sentence for the unrelated murder of 9-year-old Janet Perkins in 1986 is not affected by the appeals court’s ruling.
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