The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the death penalty appeal of Clark Elmore, who was convicted in 1995 of raping and killing his girlfriend's 14-year-old daughter in Whatcom County.

But the decision Monday drew a dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They argued that Elmore's lawyer -- the current Whatcom County public defender, Jon Komorowski -- had failed to present evidence that the defendant previously suffered from brain damage due to exposure to pesticides and Agent Orange.

Sotomayor wrote that such mitigating evidence might have persuaded a jury to impose a life sentence rather than execution. Komorowski later acknowledged it was a mistake, one he attributed to inexperience. It was the first capital case he ever handled.

Though Washington state has the death penalty, Gov. Jay Inslee has imposed a moratorium on its use.