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Court rules Arizona inmate entitled to hearing on bias

PHOENIX -- A federal appeals court ruling said an Arizona inmate sentenced to die is entitled to a hearing on whether a judge was biased.

A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel's ruling last week says a lower court reasonably denied some appeals on behalf of Richard Hurles. He was convicted for the stabbing death of a librarian.

However, the 9th Circuit panel said the lower court didn't reasonably determine whether then-Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Ruth Hilliard should have excused herself from initial reviews of Hurles' trial and sentencing.

Hilliard had presided over Hurles' trial in the 1992 killing of Buckeye librarian Kay Blanton. The victim was stabbed 37 times and Hilliard while the case was pending described the killing as brutal.

After a jury convicted Hurles, Hilliard sentenced him to die.

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