Del. court overturns death penalty conviction
DOVER, Del. — The Delaware Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a man sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a college student.
The justices issued a 3-2 split ruling Tuesday, ordering a new trial for James E. Cooke Jr. He was sentenced for the 2005 rape and murder of Lindsay Bonistall, a 20-year-old University of Delaware sophomore.
Prosecutors accused Cooke of breaking into the woman’s apartment and raping and strangling her before setting the apartment on fire.
The ruling says Cooke’s right to a fair trial was violated when his trial lawyers sought a verdict of guilty but mentally ill — even though Cooke vehemently disagreed and proclaimed his innocence.
The Delaware attorney general’s office issued a statement saying it was reviewing the ruling.