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Inmate’s sentence switched from death to life

RALEIGH (AP) — A North Carolina inmate sentenced to death 15 years ago will instead serve a life sentence in prison.

Elmer Ray McNeill, Jr. was convicted in the 1993 deaths of two men in a Food Lion supermarket in Raleigh. A jury sentenced McNeill to death in 1996, while his big brother, Robert McNeill, was sentenced to life by a different jury. Prosecutors said the older McNeill had worked at the store and planned the crime.

Following an appeal by the American Civil Liberties Union, a federal court reversed Elmer McNeill’s death sentence in 2009, finding his lawyer failed to present evidence of severe depression and sexual abuse within the family.

McNeill’s sentence was commuted to life Monday after Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby agreed to drop efforts to execute him.

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