The Mississippi Supreme Court has thrown out the death sentence of Howard Dean Goodin on grounds that he is mentally disabled.

Goodin, now 58, was sentenced to death in the November 1998 robbery and fatal shooting of Union restaurant owner Willis Rigdon.

Goodin lived on North Street in Union at the time of his arrest.

The court ruled Thursday that a "preponderance of the evidence" shows Goodin is mentally disabled. The justices returned the case to Newton County Circuit Court for resentencing.

The only sentencing options for a capital murder conviction are death or life without parole.

At Goodin's 1999 trial, jurors saw a surveillance tape that showed Goodin entering Rigdon's restaurant and stealing money and a VCR. It also showed Rigdon being led by gunpoint from the store and forced into his own 1996 GMC double-cab truck.

Goodin shot Rigdon on a nearby dirt road and fled in his truck, which was found less than an hour later on Road 319 in Neshoba County, about two miles north of Union.

After he was shot, Rigdon was able to walk about a quarter of a mile to a house, where he knocked on the door and blew the horn of a truck parked in the yard.

The residents woke up and called the Neshoba County Sheriff's office to report a prowler.

A deputy later found Ridgon, who died a short time later in Laird Hospital.

Rigdon's truck was found that same morning on Ivy Street in Philadelphia.

Goodin was arrested shortly afterwards at a residence at the intersection of Canal and Beacon Street where officers recovered about $1,500.



The Associated Press contributed to this story