Whitesburg KY

Death sentence reinstated


A Kentucky inmate’s death sentence has been reinstated after a federal appeals court concluded that a psychiatrist did not improperly question the inmate about his planned defense and meeting with attorneys before trial.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision granting 65-year-old Parramore Lee Sanborn a new sentencing hearing. The appeals court found no legal violation in Sanborn’s questioning in 1991 by Dr. Victoria Skelton.

Sanborn is awaiting execution for the October 1983 kidnapping, rape and murder of Barbara Heilman in Henry County. The appeals court issued the ruling Dec. 21.

Skelton, a psychiatrist, examined Sanborn because he was claiming extreme emotional distress at the time of the murder.

The Kentucky Supreme Court at one time called the case a “particularly vicious and shocking premeditated murder.” Gov. Paul Patton signed Sanborn’s death warrant in December 1996, which a judge later stopped.

U.S. District Judge Karen Coff man threw out the death sentence in 2007, saying Skelton violated Sanborn’s right to attorneyclient privilege by asking him about confidential conversations, then telling prosecutors and testifying about what she learned.

Appeals Judge Danny Boggs wrote for the court that Skelton had a need to determine the extent to which she questioned Sanborn’s story and his reliance on the extreme emotional distress defense during meetings on March 8 and March 11, 1991.

That need, combined with Sanborn’s changing story about the slaying, opened the door for Skelton to ask about the meetings and planned defense. Boggs also noted that, even if Skelton had not testified, other witnesses and evidence provided jurors with a strong enough basis to convict Sanborn.

“Having heard of his constantly shifting stories, and testimony from his own expert that he was prone to deceit without remorse, a rational jury would surely have already seriously doubted Sanborn’s credibility and inferred that his March 11 story was tailored to fit the EED argument even without hearing that he had met with someone,” Boggs wrote for the threejudge panel.

Sanborn was originally convicted and sentenced to death in March 1984. The Kentucky Supreme Court reversed that decision in 1988 and granted Sanborn a new trial. He was convicted and sentenced to death again in 1991.

Sanborn worked at the Heilman farm at one time. After Heilman’s body was found outside her home, police found Sanborn a few hours later at a nearby house with blood on his pants and shoes and in his car.

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