The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday reversed the murder conviction and punishment for a man sentenced to die for the killings of his sixth wife and a supposed hitman.
Thomas Randolph, now 65, was convicted in 2017 of two counts of first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of his wife, Sharon Causse, and the man prosecutors said he hired to kill her, Michael James Miller.
At trial, prosecutors pointed to similarities between the two killings and the death of Randolph’s second wife in Utah.
In a unanimous decision penned by Justice Abbi Silver, the high court decided that a jury should not have heard that evidence, which justices called “problematic,” because Randolph was acquitted in the 1986 death of Becky Randolph.
“Ultimately, the State lured the jury into finding (Thomas) Randolph guilty based on myriad other bad acts that were not even marginally relevant for a nonpropensity purpose, rather than constraining the testimony to evidence relevant to the charged offenses,” Silver wrote. “We cannot look to the prior-bad-act evidence to conclude that the error in admitting that evidence was harmless.”
Four of Randolph’s previous wives were dead when he went to trial for the Las Vegas killings.
His second wife’s death was initially considered a suicide, but Utah authorities ultimately charged Randolph with her murder based on information from one of his former friends, whom he later tried to have killed. Randolph pleaded guilty to felony witness tampering, but a Utah jury acquitted him of murder in 1989.
State law prohibits evidence of prior “bad acts,” unless prosecutors prove “something other than the defendant’s criminal propensity,” according to the decision.
After his sixth wife was found dead in the couple’s northwest valley home, Randolph had told Metropolitan Police Department investigators that he noticed a man in a black ski mask after finding his wife shot in the head in May 2008. He brushed up against the man and shot him five times, he said.
Prosecutors said Randolph’s story did not make sense, and they tried to show jurors evidence of similarities between the two killings and the death of his second wife.
Randolph was arrested in the double homicide in January 2009, and it took more than eight years for the case to go to trial. Prosecutors said Randolph stood to gain upward of $360,000 in insurance money after Causse’s death.
Reached Thursday, Randolph’s lawyer, Sandra Stewart, said she had not read the high court’s decision. When informed that his conviction was reversed, she said, “Well, that’s good news.”