Court denies request to open OH inmate's interview
By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, The Associated Press
Updated 5:46 PM Wednesday, May 30, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A psychologist cannot view the Ohio Parole Board's interview with a condemned inmate to try to evaluate his competency, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The court without comment rejected a request by the attorneys for John Eley, scheduled to die July 26 for killing a Youngstown convenience store owner in 1986.
Eley's mental competency has long been questioned but the prisoner refuses to cooperate with efforts to have him evaluated, the attorneys said in a lawsuit filed ahead of Thursday's parole board interview.
"Every attorney who has represented Mr. Eley has believed him to be mentally ill," Eley's federal public defenders said in the lawsuit. "However, because of his mental illness and borderline intellectual functioning, Mr. Eley refused time and again to cooperate with experts, and has therefore never been fully diagnosed or even evaluated."
Eley, 63, was sentenced to death for the Aug. 26, 1986, fatal shooting of Ihsan Aydah, the 28-year-old owner of Sinjil Market in Youngstown. Eley shot Aydah in the head, and then, with an accomplice, stole Aydah's wallet and money from a cash register, according to Ohio Attorney General records.
Eley's public defenders make two points: Eley's mental competency has been questioned back to the days of his trial, and he has refused to cooperate over the years with any attempts to have him tested.
Eley has also refused all mental health evaluations while on death row in recent years, the lawsuit said.
The parole board refused the request by defense attorneys Vicki Werneke and Alan Rossman last week.
The board's policy clearly states inmate interviews are observed only by attorneys from both sides and a representative from the governor's office, board chairwoman Cynthia Mausser told the attorneys in a May 25 email. "Your request for an exception to this policy is not persuasive," she said.
Mausser declined to comment. The state called the filing an abuse of the court system meant to delay Eley's execution. Eley's competency has been raised for years and numerous courts have ruled against him, Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said in a filing Wednesday.
Eley "has the full understanding that the death penalty is being imposed upon him" for Aydah's murder, Gains said.
Columbus Psychologist Jeffrey Smalldon reviewed Eley's files and interviewed him for about three hours in 1996, but was not able to conduct psychological tests, according to Tuesday's lawsuit.
Based on that interview and his records' review, "I had serious questions and concerns about Mr. Eley's competency," Smalldon said in sworn statement included in the lawsuit.
"It was clear to me at that time Mr. Eley lacked the ability to rationally appreciate his legal situation, and to make rational and informed decision as they relate to his conviction and death sentence," Smalldon wrote.
Werneke and Rossman denied the filing was a delay tactic.
Even if Smalldon "would find now that his mental functioning does not rise to the level of being incompetent to be executed, the issue is still relevant to the review by the Ohio Parole Board and the Governor of Ohio of the request for clemency for Mr. Eley," they said after the court ruled.www.daytondailynews.com/news/ohio-news/court-denies-request-to-open-oh-in