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Death Sentence Overturned For Man Who Killed Deputy
Updated June 3, 2015 7:57 AM | Filed under: Crime
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(INDIANAPOLIS) - An Indiana man who killed a Morgan County deputy in 2001 had his death sentence overturned after a federal court found he was mentally ineligible for execution.

The federal appeals court found that 53-year-old Tommy Ray Pruitt's mental retardation made him ineligible for execution.

During a June 14, 2001 traffic stop on Wilbur Road, Starnes was shot five times and mortally wounded by Pruitt. He died one month later.

Starnes had pulled Pruitt over on Wilbur Road because he believed Pruitt was a suspect in a burglary and theft of guns.

Pruitt was shot seven times in the gunbattle, but he recovered and was convicted of murder and other counts in 2003. He was sentenced to death.

But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Pruitt, who was recorded with an IQ of 60, is intellectually disabled, and the judges faulted his trial attorney for failing to effectively present evidence that he suffers from schizophrenia.

Starnes' son Ryan, an Indiana state trooper, told NBC station WTHR of Indianapolis that he was "very disappointed" by the court ruling.

"The last 14 years have taken a toll on myself and my family," said Ryan Starnes, whose brother is also a state trooper. "We fought every step of the way, and we're not done. The Starnes family are fighters. We've always been fighters, and we're going to fight this."

The ruling doesn't mean Pruitt will be released from prison. Instead, his case was returned to state court for resentencing.

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