Court to Consider Johnson Death Penalty Trial

FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2005, file photo Angela Johnson is lead to a hearing at the Federal Courthouse in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Johnson was convicted in 2005 in the drug-related slayings of three adults and two children in 1993 near Mason City. A federal judge, citing errors by her attorney's, tossed out her death sentences cut upheld her convictions on Thursday, March 22, 2012. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Jim Slosiarek, File)

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By Rachel Begle

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - An appeals court is set to hear arguments involving the death penalty retrial of Angela Johnson, the Iowa woman convicted of five drug-related slayings in 1993.

U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett in 2012 threw out death sentences given to Johnson in 2005 after finding deficiencies in her legal representation. Last year, Bennett ordered a new trial solely to determine whether Johnson should again be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.

Federal prosecutors are asking the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to broaden the scope of the new trial. They say jurors should first hear the evidence on whether Johnson is eligible for death under federal law, and then decide what penalty to issue.

A three-judge panel will hear oral arguments Thursday afternoon in St. Louis.
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