Card implores governor to spare Akron killer
By Phil Trexler
Beacon Journal staff writer
Published on Monday, Dec 22, 2008
This might just be Brett X. Hartmann's last Christmas.
His past 10 holidays have been spent on Ohio's death row, where he continues to proclaim his innocence in one of Akron's most brutal murders.
Time is beginning to overtake his pleas.
Hartmann, 34, has 107 days remaining until his scheduled execution on April 7.
His appeals appear exhausted; his last hope may rest in the hands of Gov. Ted Strickland.
In a seasonal move designed to sway the governor, Hartmann's supporters have begun sending the governor Christmas cards drawn by the condemned inmate from his Ohio State Penitentiary cell.
The cards' cover includes Hartmann's drawing of a lighted candle next to a Bible verse on the birth of Jesus Christ: ''He came that all might live.''
Inside the card is the message his supporters hope Strickland will heed: ''Please let Brett Hartmann live.''
The card drive and a corresponding petition are the work of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Cincinnati and the anti-death penalty group, Ohioans to Stop Executions.
Keith Dailey, a spokesman for Strickland, said about six cards had been received by the governor's office, along with e-mails for and against the execution.
''When making clemency determinations, the governor and his staff review letters and petitions received in the governor's office, in addition to many other items that are taken into consideration in each specific case,'' Dailey said in an e-mail.
The goal is to send 1,000 cards to Strickland's office and win clemency for Hartmann and allow him to live out his life in prison.
By last week, organizers said, more than 1,200 cards had been requested from people around the world, many of whom have followed Hartmann's case, mostly on a personal site set up for him by friends on MySpace.com.
''We've done different things in the past, but this is definitely the first time we've done something like this,'' said Julia Przybysz of the justice and peace center. ''Since it's Christmas and Brett has [an execution] date, we thought it would be a start to send a message to Gov. Strickland and show him that a lot of people are watching.
''The card is a way to show Brett's humanity and for the governor to think about that while overseeing one of the most serious aspects of his job.''
The Christmas card campaign comes from a Roman Catholic nun, who said the idea came to her in prayer, as the Advent season nearly coincided with news last month of the Ohio Supreme Court setting an execution date for Hartmann.
Sister Alice Gerdeman said it is no coincidence that the Christmas card campaign targets Strickland's strong religious beliefs he's an ordained Methodist minister during the holiest time of the year.
''I just thought what a terrible contradiction it is in our lives that these people are preparing for a deliberate death when the Christian population of our world is looking at Christmas as a time for birth and real life,'' she said.
The Christmas card idea is being panned by the family of Winda Snipes, who was killed in 1997 in her Highland Square apartment. The 46-year-old woman was stabbed more than 130 times and her hands were amputated and never found.
Hartmann was convicted after a trial and sentenced to death.
''Christmas cards? Why, that's the stupidest thing I ever heard of,'' said Snipes' mother, 78-year-old Ella Oxford Snipes of Greenville, S.C.
''Do they really think the governor will listen to them? I don't. I hate to see anyone so young done like this. But he did it. So, that's it.''
Hartmann, a friend of Snipes, admitted having sex with her the morning before her murder. He also reported the death to police after returning for a visit and finding her body.
He wound up the No. 1 suspect as police built a case around him. His sperm was on Snipes' body, his fingerprint was smeared in her blood on a chair leg and his T-shirt with Snipes' blood was found hidden in his bedroom, along with her jewelry.
Hartmann, then 23, contends that he panicked when he discovered Snipes' body and merely tried to cover up evidence that he was inside the apartment to avoid being accused by police. He insists he was home at the time of the murder and that phone records support his defense.
Hartmann's supporters also contend that other fingerprint evidence and human hairs found at the scene were never tested. They argue that another friend of Snipes threatened to slit her throat shortly before the murder.
The arguments have failed to sway any court to grant Hartmann a new trial.
''Our hopes are several,'' Gerdeman said. ''One of them is that people will take a look at Brett's case and look at the death penalty in general in the state of Ohio and bring this issue into their consciousness.
''We also hope this will touch the governor's heart to know that people all over the state are concerned about the taking of life.''
A card drive? hahahahaha.. Please... Give me a freaking break...