S.B. Attorney Gets Convicted Killer Off Death Row

Bob Sanger
Paul Wellman (file)

California’s death row shrunk by one late last month when the state Supreme Court granted a petition filed by Santa Barbara criminal defense attorney Robert Sanger on behalf of condemned prisoner Robert Lewis Jr., who Sanger successfully argued was too intellectually disabled to be put to death. Lewis, convicted in 1983 for stabbing, shooting, and robbing a Long Beach man will serve out the rest of his life behind bars instead.

Lewis, 31 years old at the time of the killing, scored on the very low end of multiple intelligence tests. His highest scores placed him in the category of “dull normal.” Lewis never learned to read or write, had trouble with language, and spoke “all confused.” Attorneys for the state Attorney General’s office argued Lewis compensated for such deficits with street smarts and described him as a “successful street hustler.” The Supreme Court questioned just how successful Lewis ever was, suggesting he lacked the necessary guile to stay out of trouble with the law.


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