I came across this only yesterday. I’ll paraphrase the original slightly, because it’s written in a different style to my own:
“In 1985, one Bruce Wayne Morris was convicted in California of robbing and killing a man by beating him with a stick and stone.
“The time came for sentencing, and the jury had to decide between execution or imprisonment for life. The judge issued written instructions to them that the defendant would not have the possibility of making parole… and accidentally omitted the word “not”. The jury, now mistakenly thinking they had to choose between death and the possibility of the future release of the man, picked death.
“Apparently, it took more than 10 years and a federal appeals court to reverse the decision on the grounds that the state of California was on the verge of executing a man because of a typo.”
I’m puzzled as to why it’s the jury and not the judge in this story that decided on the sentence, but hey, maybe they do things differently in California.
Anyway, you can read other ‘disastrous typo’ stories where I found this one – to wit, here.