Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Ohio Governor commutes one sentence, delays another

Governor John Kasich
COLUMBUS—A former Lima man facing execution for the killing of a teenager during a 2002 drug-related robbery won an eight-month reprieve Wednesday from Gov. John Kasich.

Cleveland R. Jackson, who’d been scheduled to die by lethal injection on Sept. 13, is now set for execution on May 29, 2019.

At the same time, Mr. Kasich, citing “fundamental flaws” during the sentencing phase, commuted the death sentence of Raymond Tibbetts to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the second time he’s done so this year. Tibbetts had been scheduled to die on Oct. 17.

The governor’s decision was contrary to an 8-1 vote by the Ohio Parole Board that Tibbetts should not be shown mercy.

Tibbetts was convicted for the 1997 murders in Cincinnati of his wife, Judith Crawford, and landlord Fred Hicks. The parole board met for a second time last month to hear from one of Tibbetts’ jurors, who said he would not have voted to impose death if Tibbetts’ lawyers had presented evidence of  his background of childhood abuse and neglect during the sentencing phase of the trial.

In the Lima case, Jackson, 40, and his half-brother, Jeronique Cunningham, 45, were both convicted in connection with two murders on Jan. 3, 2002 when they corralled eight people into an apartment kitchen, robbed them, and then opened fire at close range.

Two of the victims died — Jayla Grant, 3, and Leneshia Williams, 17. Jackson was initially sentenced to be executed for both murders, but his death sentence related to the 3-year-old was later overturned. He was resentenced to life without parole.

The death sentence for Ms. Williams’ killing still stands, however.

Ray TibbettsJackson’s latest attorney has a motion pending with the Ohio Supreme Court seeking a delay in the execution to give him time to prepare for a clemency hearing scheduled for Aug. 9. The newly appointed lawyer argued that Jackson’s prior attorneys had all but abandoned him, leading to the recent appointment of new counsel.

A date has not been set for Cunningham’s execution.

“As he has been constructively unrepresented and his execution date is less than three months away, Mr. Jackson is at risk of being executed without the full process guaranteed to condemned prisoners by our judicial system,” Assistant Federal Public Defender Dale A. Baich wrote in his amended motion seeking a two-year delay that was filed on June 26.

The governor’s announcement came two days after Ohio completed its first execution in 10 months. Robert Van Hook, 58, succumbed to the three-drug cocktail on Wednesday for the 1985 fatal strangling of David Self, 25, in Cincinnati.

The Tibbetts case marked the seventh time that Mr. Kasich has commuted a death sentence to life without parole since he took office in 2011.

In March, Mr. Kasich stepped in to prevent the execution of William T. Montgomery for the 1986 robbery murder of Debra Ogle, 20, of South Toledo.

In that case, the governor agreed with the parole board which, among other things, questioned the prosecution’s failure to disclose to the defense a police report that raised doubts as to whether Ms. Ogle had been killed on the date police said.

Montgomery is now serving life without parole for Ms. Ogle’s death. He was already serving a separate life sentence for the murder of her roommate, Cynthia Tincher, 19.

Source: Toledo Blade, Jim Provance, July 20, 2018

Gov. John Kasich commutes death sentence of Cincinnati killer Raymond Tibbetts

Jury box
A Cincinnati killer scheduled to be executed on Oct. 17 has been spared the death penalty after a juror's plea to Gov. John Kasich.

Kasich went against the recommendation of the Ohio Parole Board on Friday and commuted the death sentence of Raymond Tibbetts to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Kasich delayed Tibbetts’ execution in February, citing a letter the governor received from a Cincinnati juror who said Tibbetts' trial was flawed and asked that Tibbetts be spared.

Juror Ross Geiger said he would not have voted for the death penalty if he had known the horrible conditions of Tibbetts' childhood. Under Ohio law, Geiger's single vote for a life sentence would have prevented the death penalty.

After receiving Geiger's letter, Kasich asked the Ohio Parole Board to review Tibbetts' case. The board held a hearing June 14 and later voted 8-1 against recommending clemency for Tibbetts, according to a report issued June 21.  The board originally voted 11-1 in January 2017 against mercy for Tibbetts.

A statement from Kasich's office Friday explained the governor's decision:

"Tibbetts’s commutation is being granted as a result of fundamental flaws in sentencing phase of his trial. Specifically, the defense’s failure to present sufficient mitigating evidence, coupled with an inaccurate description of Tibbetts’s childhood by the prosecution, essentially prevented the jury from making an informed decision about whether Tibbetts deserved the death penalty."

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters released this statement through a spokesperson:

“John is the governor and he has every right to do what he did.  We do not have to agree with it but he is the governor and it is over.”

An attorney for Tibbetts, Erin Barnhart, said in part:

 "Governor Kasich has done our State a great service today by rectifying this wrong and ensuring that the checks and balances in our criminal justice system can work.”

In his Jan. 30 letter, Geiger told Kasich he believed he and other jurors were misled by attorneys about the “truly terrible conditions” of Tibbetts’ upbringing.

“After reviewing the material, from the perspective of an original juror, I have deep concerns about the trial and the way it transpired,” Geiger wrote to the governor. “This is why I am asking you to be merciful.”

At the review hearing, Geiger said jurors weren't told about Tibbetts' claims that he and his brothers were tied to a single bed at the foster home, weren’t fed properly, were thrown down stairs, had their fingers beaten with spatulas and were burned on heating registers. He said he didn't learn about it until he started researching the case on the internet and found it in Tibbetts’ application for mercy last year.

Philip Cummings, Hamilton County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, reminded the board that Tibbetts himself said he was not deserving of clemency. Prosecutors also argued that Tibbetts’ background didn’t outweigh his crimes.

Tibbetts was convicted for the 1997 murders of his wife, Judith Crawford, and the couple’s landlord, Fred Hicks, in Cincinnati.

Prosecutors said Tibbetts, then 40, stabbed Hicks, 67, to death at Hicks’ home and beat and stabbed Crawford during an argument that same day over Tibbetts’ crack cocaine habit.

Hicks had hired Crawford as a caretaker and allowed the couple to stay with him.

Tibbetts had been sentenced to death for killing Hicks. He received life imprisonment for killing his wife.

Another Cincinnati killer, Robert Van Hook, was executed two days ago for stabbing and killing David Self, a man he met in a bar, in 1985. Prosecutors said Van Hook made a practice of luring gay men from bars to rob them.

Source: WCPO news, July 20, 2018

Juror after Cincinnati killer Raymond Tibbetts is spared: 'I don't think anybody really wins'

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Friday spared death row inmate Raymond Tibbetts, who was convicted of killing his wife and landlord in Cincinnati more than 2 decades ago.

Kasich - going against the recommendation of the Ohio Parole Board - said that there were "fundamental flaws" in sentencing Tibbetts. Jurors didn't learn about Tibbett's background as a neglected and abused child.

One juror, Ross Geiger, brought those concerns to Kasich's attention earlier this year in a letter that prompted the governor to delay Tibbetts' Feb. 13 execution to give the parole board more time to review the matter.

Geiger told The Enquirer he's glad Kasich took his concerns seriously, but he said he's sorry the families of Tibbetts' victims had to endure more months of uncertainty and media attention.

"It's not like I feel like there's a victory here," Geiger said. "I don't think anybody really wins."

Kasich commuted Tibbetts' sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Tibbetts had been set to be executed Oct. 17.

Tibbetts had been sentenced to death for beating his wife, Sue Crawford, to death and fatally stabbing his landlord, Fred Hicks, on the same day in 1997 in Over-the-Rhine.

The Ohio Parole Board had given Tibbetts' case a second look after a former juror, Ross Geiger of Loveland, wrote a letter to Kasich, expressing concern that jurors didn't know more about Tibbett's background before sentencing him to death. Ultimately, the parole board voted 8-1 against clemency.

Kasich disagreed. In a news release, the governor explained that "the defense's failure to present sufficient mitigating evidence, coupled with an inaccurate description of Tibbetts's childhood by the prosecution, essentially prevented the jury from making an informed decision about whether Tibbetts deserved the death penalty."

Mark Hicks, the nephew of Fred Hicks, had pleaded with Ohio officials to execute Tibbetts for his crimes in a letter.

"The Hicks family knows Governor Kasich has what it takes to sign a death warrant. He's proven he is going to follow the law! The law in Ohio allows for heinous killers like Tibbetts to be executed," Hicks wrote.

Tibbetts isn't the 1st death row inmate whom Kasich has spared. In March, Kasich commuted the death sentence of Toledo-area killer William Montgomery. In that case, the state parole board had recommended mercy in a narrow vote.

Source: cincinnati.com, July 21, 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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