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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Ohio Parole Board hears former juror's death sentence regrets

Ex-juror Ross Geiger
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A former juror on a death penalty trial said Thursday that he was "frankly upset" to read information last year about the terrible childhood of the man he and 11 other jurors recommended be executed two decades ago.

The upbringing of killer Raymond Tibbetts was presented as a debate between his attorneys, who said his background was terrible, and prosecutors, who said it wasn't that bad, ex-juror Ross Geiger told the Ohio Parole Board.

Thus, Geiger said he was surprised when he came across information presented to the board last year that documented horrific facts about Tibbetts' early years, but which jurors never heard.

"It was like just a different story," Geiger said at the beginning of an 86-minute appearance before the board in a rare follow-up clemency hearing.

When Tibbetts was a boy, he and his brothers were tied to a single bed at night, were not fed properly, were thrown down stairs, had their fingers beaten with spatulas and were burned on heating registers, according to Tibbetts' application for mercy last year.

The only hints of Tibbetts' childhood at trial came from the lone witness who was called to talk about factors that might go against a death sentence, Geiger said. The witness was a psychiatrist who spoke briefly to members of Tibbetts' family.

"I was just struck and frankly upset that information that was available was not even addressed, other than in very summary fashion," Geiger said.

Tibbetts, 61, is set to die in October for killing Fred Hicks at Hicks' Cincinnati home in 1997.

In addition to the death sentence for killing Hicks, Tibbetts also received life imprisonment for fatally beating and stabbing his wife, 42-year-old Judith Crawford, during an argument that same day over Tibbetts' crack cocaine habit.

The 67-year-old Hicks had hired Crawford as a caretaker and allowed the couple to stay with him.

Ray TibbettsThe parole board voted 11-1 last year against mercy for Tibbetts. Republican Gov. John Kasich then delayed Tibbetts' execution after receiving a letter from Geiger saying he believed he and other jurors were misled about the "truly terrible conditions" of Tibbetts' upbringing.

Geiger acknowledged that during deliberations, jurors had access to a full report from the county human services department containing some of the worst details about Tibbetts' childhood.

Several board members asked Geiger why jurors didn't rely on that more.

Geiger acknowledged they could have, but also said they were inundated with material. He also likened the situation to students receiving a textbook from a teacher who didn't bother to explain what was in it.

"Is it too much to ask for a juror to rely on attorneys to provide the information that was available?" he said, referring to what he thought he should have heard during trial testimony.

Geiger said he isn't anti-death penalty now, but takes a more nuanced view of the issue. He said there was never any question about Tibbetts' guilt.

Hamilton County prosecutors have previously argued that Tibbetts' background does not outweigh his crimes. That includes stabbing Crawford after he had already beaten her to death, and then repeatedly stabbing Hicks, a "sick, defenseless, hearing-impaired man in whose home Tibbetts lived," they told the parole board.

The board planned to issue its ruling June 22.

Source: WTRF/AP, Andrew Welsh-Huggins, June 15, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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