Death penalty overturned in 1997 murder case

Aug 3, 2011

A federal appeals court has overturned a death sentence for a Michigan man  convicted of drowning a young woman. He killed her to prevent her from pursuing a rape case against him.

Marvin Gabrion was convicted in 2002 of killing 19-year-old Rachel Timmerman.

Her body was found in a lake in Manistee National Forest in 1997.

Gabrion was sentenced to death because the body was found on federal property. Michigan does not have a death penalty.

David Moran is clinical professor of law at the University of Michigan.

“The argument that the defendant wanted to make – that had this body been dumped, or had the murder occurred just a few hundred feet further north – the death penalty would have been off the table.”

The federal appeals court said the jury should have been allowed to consider that fact.

The victim’s infant daughter was never found; prosecutors believe she was also killed by Gabrion.