On July 10, Ohio Governor John Kasich (pictured) granted clemency to death row inmate John Eley, who was scheduled to be executed on July 26. Eley’s sentence was reduced to life in prison without parole. The governor said he based his decision on evidence that Eley acted under the direction of another person, and that his mental capacity was limited, saying, “Without those factors it is doubtful that Eley would have committed this crime.” The prosecutor in the case and one of the judges who sentenced Eley to death called for mercy. The Ohio Parole Board voted 5-3 against recommending clemency. Those who voted for clemency said that Eley’s crime was not one of the “worst of the worst,” and that similar crimes rarely receive death sentences. This is the third death-row clemency granted by Gov. Kasich, including two issued in 2
The Ohio Supreme Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:
During the early afternoon of August 26, 1986, Eley was visiting Melvin Green at the home of Green’s girlfriend in Youngstown. Accordingto Eley, he and Green were just sitting around when Green suggested that they go down to the “Arab store.” Eley and Green left the house and proceeded down a path through the woods leading to the Sinjil Market.
Along the way, Green showed Eley a “Black Snub nose gun,” and told Eley he “was going to take the Arab off.” Since the proprietor of the store, Ihsan Aydah, knew Green’s face, Eley agreed to go in alone and rob the store while Green waited outside.
Eley entered the store and told Aydah to put his hands up and to turn and face the wall. Green had told Eley that Aydah had a gun under the store counter, so when Aydah lowered his hands and went under the counter, Eley fired a shot. Eley claimed that he aimed at Aydah’s shoulder. However, the shot hit Aydah on the right side of his head, approximately four inches above the earlobe. Aydah died the next day of shock and hemorrhage due to a gunshot wound to the head.Just before Eley fired the gun, Green entered the store. After the shot, Green ran behind the counter and got into the cash register. He took Aydah’s wallet while Aydah lay wounded on the floor. As the two left the store, Green gave Eley a brown paper bag with the money and wallet. According to Eley, they went up the street, “got to the path and run up the woods.”. . .
Several days after the murder, Eley was arrested by Youngstown police at the residence of his cousin’s girlfriend, Carlotta Skinner. After his arrest, Eley told police that he and Green had split the money taken in the robbery, which was around $700. However, Eley later gave the money back to Green “because he said it was all on him and he had to get out.”
. . .
[After being arrested, i]n his voluntary statement Eley admitted that he and Green had robbed the Sinjil Market, and that he shot Aydah. [The arresting officer] testified that Eley did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the interview and was “very calm” and “passive.” The grand jury indicted Eley on one count of aggravated murder
with a specification that the murder was committed during, or immediately after, the commission of an aggravated robbery
According to an affidavit of trial counsel, before trial Eley refused to accept various plea offers that were conditioned on Eley’s testimony against Green, including an offer of a voluntary manslaughter charge with a six-year sentence. that Eley was the principal offender. This count also carried a firearm specification. In addition, Eley was indicted on one count of aggravated robbery (R.C. 2911.01[A] and ) and one count of conspiracy (R.C.2923.01[A]). Each count carried a firearm specification.
In May 1987, Eley waived his right to a jury trial and opted for a trial before a three-judge panel. Eley pled not guilty to the charges against him, there by withdrawing a prior plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. . . .
Trial was held before a three-judge panel on May 11–12, 1987, but the defense chose not to present any evidence. The panel found Eleyguilty of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, the felony-murder capital specification, and two of the three firearm specifications, but no guilty of conspiracy. During the mitigation hearing, several family members testified
on Eley’s behalf. Eley’s mother, Cecilia Joseph, divorced Eley’s father when Eley was seven or eight years old, and stated that Eley had “not much” of a relationship with his father. Joseph testified that on Christmas night 1964, her second husband had been drinking and began choking her and her daughter. At that time, Eley stabbed the second husband with a knife in order to stop him. Joseph testified that Eley dropped out of high school in the ninth grade, but later entered the Job Corps and learned to be a welder. Eley sent money home to his mother during this time, and gave her money to help her finish paying for nursing school. Joseph stated that while Eley has had problems with drugs and alcohol, he is a better person when he is not under the influence. She characterized Eley as “church oriented,” and believed he had been “born again.”
Eley’s sister, Susan Laury, testified that Eley had helped the family financially while he was in the Job Corps, and that Eley is normally a “quiet, sweet, gentle person that wouldn’t hurt anybody.”Dr. Douglas Darnall, a clinical psychologist, found Eley to be of borderline intelligence, and ranked him in the twelfth percentile on theWechsler Adult Intelligence Test. According to Darnall, Eley has a history of chronic alcohol and polysubstance abuse, but exhibited “no evidence of psychosis or major defective disorder.” In addition, Darnall testified that Eley understands the difference between right and wrong. Darnall found Eley to be remorseful, but Eley never mentioned that he felt remorse for the victim. However, two police officers who witnessed Eley’s confession testified that Eley was remorseful before he made that statement. Eley made a short unsworn statement at the mitigation phase that consisted of several biblical quotations from the Book of Romans.
After deliberation, the panel unanimously found that the aggravating circumstance outweighed the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt, and sentenced Eley to death. Upon appeal, the courtof appeals affirmed the convictions and sentence of death.
- Split Ohio Parole Board rejects clemency for condemned killer of convenience store owner (claimyourinnocence.wordpress.com)
- Condemned Ohio Man Asks Parole Board for Mercy (wytv.com)