Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Killer faces death after Ohio execution delay
ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Legal Affairs Writer
Updated 10:57 a.m., Wednesday, August 24, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio man condemned to die for fatally stabbing his neighbor 24 years ago could be the next inmate put to death following a pause in state executions.
Billy Slagle received the death sentence for stabbing Mari Anne Pope 17 times in her Cleveland home after a 1986 break-in. Earlier this summer, a judge's criticism of Ohio's death penalty policies delayed executions scheduled for July and August, but the state has now updated its rules in response.
Slagle's attorneys are asking the judge to delay Slagle's execution on the same grounds: The state doesn't follow its own rules when putting people to death.
U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost planned a hearing on Slagle's arguments Sept. 13, a week before his scheduled Sept. 20 execution.
On Wednesday, Slagle's attorney asked the Ohio Parole Board to recommend that Slagle be spared. Federal public defender Joe Wilhelm argued that mercy is justified because Slagle was only 18 when he committed the crime and was a chronic alcoholic with a chaotic upbringing who experienced a blackout the night of the killing and has no memory of it.
Since going to prison and being away from alcohol and drugs, Slagle has been a model inmate, Wilhelm said in a filing with the parole board.
"Billy suffered from the stunting effects of drugs and alcohol when he committed his crime," Wilhelm said. "He had no clue as to why he killed Mari Anne."
Wilhelm also argues that Slagle, an American Indian of Chippewa heritage, suffered from a genetic predisposition to alcoholism that has been linked to Native Americans.
The state argues that the jury and numerous appeals court judges have reviewed Slagle's case and upheld his conviction and death sentence. Slagle was aware enough to admit targeting Pope for burglary because he knew she lived alone, and stopped the attack to hide in a closet when a police officer shone a flashlight through a window, the office of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor William Mason said in its filing with the parole board.
"Other than repackaging and rehashing the same failed claims for lenience, Slagle offers no reason why this board should reach a different conclusion," the filing said.
Gov. John Kasich will have the final say.
Frost's July ruling on the state's execution procedures took a harsh view of how Ohio carries out the death penalty.
"It is the policy of the State of Ohio that the state follows its written execution protocol, except when it does not," Frost wrote. "This is nonsense."
Frost said the state fails to document the preparation of its lethal drugs and fails to always check an inmate's veins to see if the prisoner can receive an intravenous injection.
The judge also said the state doesn't always have the required two members of the medical team present and doesn't control who participates in an execution.
The prisons department calls changes announced last week a "comprehensive rewriting" of state execution policy.
The new rules will require post-execution reviews of all lethal injections and a physical evaluation of the condemned person's veins three weeks prior to execution.
The policy says the new procedures are to be "strictly followed" and the warden or prisons director must be notified of any reasons for deviation, with any variations requiring the director's approval.