Death Penalty for Killer of Balbir Singh Sodhi Overturned

August 16, 2006

Source: Reuters

On August 16, 2006 Reuters reported, "The Arizona Supreme Court on Monday overturned a death sentence imposed on a suburban Phoenix man for gunning down an Indian immigrant just four days after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that Frank Roque should instead spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole for the high-profile killing of Balbir Singh Sodhi.

Roque apparently mistook Sodhi, a Sikh who wore a turban and beard, for an Arab.

The court ruled that death by lethal injection would be inappropriate because of 'mitigating evidence' on Roque's mental condition and low intelligence.

'Because of the serious nature of Roque's crimes, however, we conclude that he should be imprisoned for the rest of his natural life and never be released,' wrote Rebecca White Berch, the court's vice chief justice.

Roque attracted worldwide attention for a shooting spree that killed Sodhi outside his gas station in Mesa, Arizona. He also opened fire on a Lebanese-American clerk at another gas station and at the home of an Afghan family, but there were no injuries... During the trial, prosecutors argued the rampage was fueled by racism and hate and carried out by a man with a long-time drinking problem. Defense attorneys claimed Roque was mentally ill and pushed over the edge by the September 11 attacks.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office said in a statement prosecutors disagreed with the court's decision, saying the question of life or death should have been left to the jury."