BOISE, ID - Convicted double murderer Mark Henry Lankford has lost his third appeal from his convictions for the first-degree murders of Robert and Cheryl Bravence at a campground in the woods near Grangeville nearly 40 years ago. Errors in Lankford’s first two trials in 1984 and 2008 resulted in those convictions being vacated. At the conclusion of his third trial in 2019, he was again convicted on two counts of first-degree murder and received consecutive life sentences.
Lankford appealed his third conviction, claiming there were errors on the following grounds: (1) that the district court abused its discretion when it allowed the State to question Lankford’s brother about statements Lankford made on a late-disclosed prison phone recording; (2) that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction when the “law of the case doctrine” is applied to his case; and (3) that the district court erred in denying Lankford’s motion to dismiss for a speedy trial violation.
In its Opinion, the Idaho State Supreme Court ruled that the district court did not err in its decision regarding the late-disclosed prison recording.
"Further, the Court concluded the law of the case doctrine was inapplicable to this Court’s comments about the evidence in a previous appeal from the 2008 trial because the specific comments articulated neither “a principle nor a rule of law” that would invoke the doctrine. Finally, the Court determined that Lankford’s speedy trial rights were not violated, given that most of the delays were necessitated by Lankford’s own actions," the Court concluded.
Accordingly, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed Lankford’s conviction.
Lankford and his brother, Bryan Stuart Lankford, were both arrested for the murders and tried separately. Bryan agreed to be a witness for the State at his brother's trial. He is serving a life sentence.
The Court previously summarized Bryan Lankford’s testimony in Mark Lankford I as follows:
"Bryan testified as follows: After reaching the Idaho County forest where they hid out, Mark and Bryan decided to steal an automobile from a campsite in the area. They reasoned that, because the monthly payments on Mark’s car [a 1982 Chevrolet Camaro] were delinquent, the police would be searching for it and so they needed to abandon it to avoid capture. They left the car in the woods covered with brush and set off to steal another car. They walked down a mountain road which eventually led to a campsite occupied by Robert Bravence and his wife Cheryl. Bryan entered the campsite first, with a shotgun draped over his arms, and engaged the Bravences in conversation. Shortly thereafter Mrs. Bravence left the campsite to go down to a nearby stream for some water. After Mrs. Bravence left, Mark Lankford ran out from behind some bushes where he had been hiding, and into the campsite and ordered Robert Bravence to kneel on the ground in front of him. Mark Lankford then hit Robert Bravence in the back of the head with a brown wooden night stick. When Cheryl Bravence returned to the campsite she rushed to the side of her husband who was lying on the ground. Mark Lankford ordered her to kneel down on the ground next to the body of her husband and struck her in the back of the neck with the same nightstick. The Lankfords placed the Bravences’ bodies into the Bravence van and drove back to their former campsite where Mark hid the bodies near his Camaro. The Lankfords then drove the Bravence van to Oregon and later to California where they abandoned it in Los Angeles. During their travels they purchased food and accommodations with the Bravences’ credit card."
You can read the Idaho Supreme Courts Ruling HERE.