‘Blind Faith’ Agent on Death Row in N.J. Wins Reprieve

November 4, 2005

A federal appeals court threw out a former insurance salesman’s death sentence for arranging his wife’s murder 22 years ago in a case that was the subject of a true-crime book and a TV miniseries.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia found Wednesday that Robert O. Marshall’s lawyer did not adequately represent him during the death penalty phase that followed his 1986 conviction. The court ordered that he receive a new death penalty hearing or a life sentence.

Robert Bonpietro, a deputy attorney general for New Jersey, said an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was under consideration.

Marshall was convicted of hiring a hit man to kill his wife at a dark Garden State Parkway rest stop so he could continue an affair with another woman. His tale became the subject of a best-selling book by Joe McGinnis, “Blind Faith,” and a miniseries of the same name.

Of the 11 men on death row in New Jersey, Marshall had been one of the closest to being executed.

New Jersey has not put anyone to death since 1963. Most of the death sentences handed down since the death penalty was reinstated in 1982 have been overturned.

The three-judge appeals panel affirmed a 2004 federal court decision that found Marshall’s lawyer, Glenn A. Zeitz, failed to prepare for Marshall’s death penalty phase.

Zeitz, who has appeared as a legal commentator on Court TV, did not present any witnesses during the penalty phase. He said at a 2003 hearing that he made a strategic decision not to.

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