U.S. Supreme Court reinstates death sentence in Cincinnati murder

Robert Vanhook (Source: Ohio Department of Corrections)
Robert Vanhook (Source: Ohio Department of Corrections)

Posted by Trina Edwards - email

COLUMBUS, OH (FOX19) - The U.S. Supreme Court has reinstated the death sentence for a man accused of a murder in 1985.

Robert Van Hook was convicted for the murder of David Self. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District set aside the death sentence earlier this year, ruling defense attorneys failed to uncover certain facts about Van Hook's childhood and family background at his trial.

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray appealed, arguing that Van Hook's counsel had performed adequately and that Van Hook's death sentence was supported by the evidence.

The Supreme Court issued its opinion Monday morning, with all nine justices agreeing with Cordray.

"We think it clear that Van Hook's attorneys met the constitutional minimum of competence," the court wrote. "Neither the Court of Appeals nor Van Hook has shown why the minor additional details that the trial court did not hear would have made any difference."

"We are very pleased with the court's decision," Attorney General Cordray said. "The trial court learned extensive details about Mr. Van Hook's difficult childhood and upbringing, but the court still elected to impose a death sentence. That decision was appropriate given the horrific nature of the murder in this case."

Van Hook met Self in a downtown Cincinnati bar, then lured him back to an apartment under sexual pretenses, strangled him, mutilated his body and stole his valuables.

In its decision to reinstate the death penalty, the Supreme Court noted that Van Hook had a long history of luring gay men into secluded settings to rob them. The Supreme Court's decision marks the second time this year that it has reinstated a death sentence in an Ohio case.

In June, the court reversed the Sixth Circuit's decision to vacate the death sentence of Michael Bies for the 1992 murder of a 10-year-old Cincinnati boy.

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