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Man Reconvicted In Wife's 1972 Murder In Maryland

CAPITOL HEIGHTS, Md. (AP) -- A man who spent more than 40 years in prison for his wife's 1972 murder in Prince George's County has been convicted of the crime for a second time.

A jury found 65-year-old James Bonnett guilty of first-degree murder on Thursday for the shooting death of his 22-year-old wife, Dianna Bonnett, in her family's Capitol Heights home. Bonnett's 1972 trial was declared unconstitutional.

Bonnett is one of 200 inmates who got new trials after the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in 2012 that in cases before 1980, Maryland judges gave juries flawed instructions. In most of those cases, inmates considered reformed were freed under plea deals. But in a few instances, prosecutors decided to seek new trials to keep certain inmates behind bars.

"This was a man who deserved, above all else, to remain in jail," Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said, The Washington Post reported. "We really thought it was important to send a message that it doesn't matter how difficult it was, we will bring these individuals to justice."

Alsobrooks said that while Bonnett was imprisoned, he escaped, refused to get his GED and would not participate in any rehabilitative programs.

Bonnett's attorney, Doug Irminger, argued that the case was a "tragic love story" and that his client was an impetuous young man off 22 at the time.

Prosecutors said that before Dianna Bonnett was killed, she filed a protective order against her husband. The couple had been married for just a year, and they had a stormy, abusive relationship, a witness testified.

After a hearing about the protective order, Bonnett bought a shotgun. The next day he traveled an hour to his wife's home and shot her while she was in her bathrobe and curlers, Assistant State's Attorney Christina Ropella said.

"Dianna was going to be with him, or she wasn't going to be at all," Ropella said during trial.

In 1972, Bonnett told jurors he had gone to the house with a gun for protection from his father-in-law and had no intention of killing his wife. He said he just wanted to work things out with his wife.

Bonnett said the gun went off accidentally after his sister-in-law came into the room.

Bonnett, who was sentenced to life in prison after his first trial, faces that same punishment at his new sentencing hearing, set for Oct. 10.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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