Ohio

Ohio Mom Indicted for Murder of Sons Could Face Death Penalty


August 27, 2015

An Ohio woman accused of killing her 3 sons over a 13-month period out of jealousy at the attention her husband paid them has been indicted on aggravated murder charges and could face the death penalty.

Aggravated murder charges against Brittany Pilkington in Bellefontaine were announced Tuesday by the Logan County prosecutor.

Investigators say the 23-year-old smothered 2 sons, 1 in July 2014 and the other on April 6. Authorities took custody of her 3rd son after he was born 3 months ago, but a judge allowed him to return home because there wasn’t conclusive evidence the older boys had been killed. The 3rd son died Aug. 18.

Pilkington’s mother said Pilkington told her in a jailhouse phone call that she’s innocent.

Pilkington is jailed on $1 million bond.

(source: Associated Press)

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Ohio Planned to Import Death Penalty Drug Illegally


August 19, 2015

A letter from the FDA warned the state that importing the drug would break the law.

The state of Ohio planned to illegally import sodium thiopental, a drug used for executions, according to a Food and Drug Administration letter obtained byBuzzFeed through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The June letter says that Ohio planned to “obtain bulk and finished dosage forms of sodium thiopental.” Since the drug is not available in the US, wrote Domenic Veneziano, director of the FDA’s import operation, “we assume this product would be purchased from an oversees source.”

Veneziano reminded Ohio Director of Rehabilitation and Correction Gary C. Mohr that“there is no FDA approved application for sodium thiopental, and it is illegal to import an unapproved new drug into the United States.”

According to BuzzFeed:

The prison Ohio carries out executions in registered for a DEA license to import the drug last year for a “law enforcement purpose,” but until now it was unknown if the state actually intended to use the license.

Ohio, like many other death penalty states, shrouds its execution drug suppliers in secrecy. States argue the secrecy protects their suppliers from intimidation and embarrassment, while death row inmates and open government advocates argue it removes an important check on state power.

When Nebraska received a similar letter from the FDA last year, it came out that the state paid an Indian dealer named Chris Harris more than $50,000 for enough sodium thiopental to execute hundreds of prisoners. (Nebraska has since abolished the death penalty completely.)

BuzzFeed followed up with Ohio corrections department to find out if Harris was the planned supplier for Ohio as well.

When approached by BuzzFeed News about Harris in June, Ohio DRC spokesperson JoEllen Smith said the department’s legal division would have to handle the matter. After spending weeks on the request, she only would say that Ohio had not communicated with Harris’s company, Harris Pharma, but did not specifically answer the question of if the state had purchased from him directly or indirectly. Smith did not respond to follow up questions.

Ohio’s last execution took place in January 2014, when the state gave inmateDennis McGuire 10 milligrams of midazolam, a controversial sedative whose use for lethal injections the Supreme Court recently upheld. Ohio plans a new series of executions beginning in 2016.

Many reputable drug manufacturers don’t want to be associated with the death penalty, much less the botched executions that have prevailed of late. The FDA-approved manufacturer of sodium thiopental stopped making the drug in 2011 so that it couldn’t be used for this purpose. When Missouri announced plans to use propofol, the drug found in Michael Jackson’s body at the time of his death, for executions, its German manufacturer expressed displeasure and threatened to get the European Union to stop exporting it the US completely. Many states are now struggling to find the drugs they need for executions.

This fact is compounded in Ohio, whose governor, Republican presidential candidate John Kasich, signed a “secret executions” bill this winter that exempts anyone participating in a lethal injection from public records requests. Under the law, medical and nonmedical staff, companies transporting or preparing supplies or equipment used in executions, and providers of the drugs used in lethal injections are all protected from public records requests and do not need to reveal their identity or duties.

Ohio still adding to Death Row population


april 2, 2014

In the past decade, Ohio’s Death Row has shrunk by one-third, from 209 to 139.

But a new state report shows that the courts continue to sentence people to death at the same time the process of lethal injection is mired in legal controversy.

The 2013 Capital Crimes Report issued yesterday by Attorney General Mike DeWine says 12 executions are scheduled in the next two years, with four more awaiting the setting of death dates. Among those scheduled are three from Franklin County: Warren Henness (Jan. 7), Alva Campbell (July 7, 2015), and Kareem Jackson (Jan. 21, 2016).

Ohio has carried out 54 executions since 1999, including three last year, the same as in 2012.

The annual status report on capital punishment in Ohio, which covers calendar year 2013, does not mention the problems during the Jan. 16, 2014, execution of Dennis McGuire when he gasped, choked and struggled for more than 10 minutes before succumbing to a two-drug combination never before used in a U.S. execution.

A lawsuit has been filed by McGuire’s two children, and the drug issue prompted Gov. John Kasich to push back the scheduled March 19 execution of Gregory Lott until November.

The next scheduled execution is Arthur Tyler of Cuyahoga County on May 28.

DeWine’s report says 316 people have been sentenced to death in Ohio since 1981, when capital punishment was restored after being overturned as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The report cites 18 gubernatorial commutations of death sentences: four by Kasich, five by Gov. Ted Strickland, one by Gov. Bob Taft and eight by Gov. Richard F. Celeste.

In all, 26 convicted killers have died in prison, including Billy Slagle of Cleveland, who committed suicide on Death Row on Aug. 4, 2013.

DeWine reported that 74 capital-punishment sentences were removed by the courts, and six, including Donna Roberts, the only woman currently sentenced to death in Ohio, are facing resentencing.

There have been 34 whites and 19 blacks executed, all males. They spent an average of 16.6 years in prison before being executed.

Of their 85 victims, 65 were adults and 19 were children. White victims outnumbered blacks 2-1.

For the first time this year, a group opposed to the death penalty issued its own report in response to the official state document. Ohioans to Stop Executions concludes, “While Ohio’s overall use of the death penalty is slowing, it has become clearer than ever before that the race of the victim and location of the crime are the most-accurate predictors of death sentences in the Buckeye State.”

The group said 40 percent of death sentences originate in Cuyahoga County. Ohio prosecutors filed 21 capital-murder indictments last year, a 28 percent drop from 2012, as sentences of life without the possibility of parole became more prevalent.

The full state report can be found online at http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Files/Publications/Publications-for-Law-Enforcement/Capital-Crimes-Annual-Reports/2013-Capital-Crimes-Annual-Report.

OHIO – Kasich postpones March 19 execution – GREGORY LOTT


february 7, 2014

Gov. John Kasich has postponed the scheduled March 19 execution of Gregory Lott because of lingering concerns about the drugs used in the lethal injection of Dennis McGuire last month.

Kasich this afternoon used his executive clemency power to move Lott’s execution to Nov. 19.

While the governor did not cite a reason, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said he wanted to give the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction time to complete its internal review of McGuire’s Jan. 16 execution. “Gregory Lott committed a heinous crime for which he will be executed,” Nichols said.

During his Jan. 16 execution, McGuire, 53, gasped, choked and clenched his fists, all the while appearing to be unconscious, for at least 10 minutes after the lethal drugs – 10 mg of midazolam, a sedative, and 40 mg of hydromorphone, a morphine derivative – flowed into his body. The drugs had never been used together for an execution.

Attorneys for Lott, 51, are challenging his execution, complaining the drugs could cause “unnecessary pain and suffering” in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 19 in the U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost’s court.

Lott, 51, was convicted and sentenced to death for killing John McGrath, 82, by setting him on fire in his Cleveland-area home in 1986. McGrath survived in a hospital for 11 days before dying. Lott came close to execution in 2004, but the U.S. Supreme Court blocked it.

Kevin Werner, executive director of Ohioans to Stop Executions, praised Kasich for showing “leadership and careful consideration” by issuing a temporary reprieve.

USA: The death penalty has become a game of chess


Americans have developed a nearly insatiable appetite for morbid details about crime, as any number of docudramas, Netflix series and Hollywood movies attest.

There is 1 notable exception: executions. Here, we’d just rather not know too much about current practices. Better to just think of prisoners quietly going to sleep, permanently.

The blind eye we turn to techniques of execution is giving cover to disturbing changes with lethal injection. The drugs that have traditionally been used to create the deadly “cocktail” administered to the condemned are becoming harder to get. Major manufacturers are declining to supply them for executions, and that has led states to seek other options.

That raises questions about how effective the lethal drugs will be. At least 1 execution appears to have been botched. In January, an inmate in Ohio was seen gasping for more than 10 minutes during his execution. He took 25 minutes to die. The state had infused him with a new cocktail of drugs not previously used in executions.

States have been forced to turn to relatively lightly regulated “compounding pharmacies,” companies that manufacture drugs usually for specific patient uses. And they’d rather you not ask for details. Death row inmates and their attorneys, on the other hand, are keenly interested in how an approaching execution is going to be carried out. Will it be humane and painless or cruel and unusual?

Lawyers for Herbert Smulls, a convicted murderer in Missouri, challenged the compound drug he was due to be given, but the Supreme Court overturned his stay of execution. A district court had ruled that Missouri had made it “impossible” for Smulls “to discover the information necessary to meet his burden.” In other words, he was condemned to die and there was nothing that attorneys could do because of the secrecy.

Smulls was executed Wednesday.

Missouri, which has put 3 men to death in 3 months, continues shrouding significant details about where the drugs are manufactured and tested. In December, a judge at the 8th U.S. Circuit of Appeals wrote a scathing ruling terming Missouri’s actions as “using shadow pharmacies hidden behind the hangman’s hood.”

States have long taken measures to protect the identities of guards and medical personnel directly involved with carrying out death penalty convictions. That is a sensible protection. But Missouri claims the pharmacy and the testing lab providing the drugs are also part of the unnamed “execution team.”

That’s a stretch. And the reasoning is less about protecting the firm and more about protecting the state’s death penalty from scrutiny.

The states really are in a bind. European manufacturers no longer want to be involved in the U.S. market for killing people. So they have cut off exports of their products to U.S. prisons.

First, sodium thiopental, a key to a long-used lethal injection cocktail became unavailable. Next, the anesthetic propofol was no longer available. At one point, Missouri was in a rush to use up its supply before the supply reached its expiration date.

Next, the state decided to switch to pentobarbital. So, along with many of the more than 30 states that have the death penalty, Missouri is jumping to find new drugs, chasing down new ways to manufacture them.

Information emerged that at least some of Missouri’s lethal drug supply was tested by an Oklahoma analytical lab that had approved medicine from a Massachusetts pharmacy responsible for a meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people.

For those who glibly see no problem here, remember that the U.S. Constitution protects its citizens from “cruel and unusual punishment.” But attorneys for death row inmates are finding they can’t legally test whether a new compounded drug meets that standard because key information is being withheld. Besides, we citizens have a right to know how the death penalty is carried out.

All of this adds to the growing case against the death penalty, showing it as a costly and irrational part of the criminal justice system. We know the threat of it is not a deterrent. We know it is far more costly to litigate than seeking sentences for life with no parole. We know extensive appeals are excruciating for the families of murder victims. And we know that some of society’s most unrepentant, violent killers somehow escape it.

And now we’ve got states going to extremes to find the drugs – and hide information about how they got then – just to continue the killing.

ABOUT THE WRITER Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star

(source: Fresno Bee) 

 

Ohio: Corrections officers placed on leave after Death Row inmate’s suicide


Two corrections officers on Death Row who were on duty when convicted killer Billy Slagle committed suicide early Sunday morning have been placed on administrative leave.

JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said today that officers Clay Putnam, 19, and John McCollister, 30, were placed on administrative leave yesterday with pay, standard policy in suspension cases. No other information was released about the department’s investigation.

McCollister has been with the agency since 2010 and Putnam became a corrections officer in January this year.

Slagle, 44, was found hanging in his cell on Death Row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution about 5 a.m. Sunday and died an hour later. Officers at the prison are supposed to make rounds of all cells every 30 minutes. His suicide came just hours before he was scheduled to go on around-the-clock watch beginning 72 hours prior to his execution.

He was scheduled to be lethally injected for the 1987 murder of 40-year-old Mari Anne Pope, his neighbor in Cleveland. (The Columbus Dispatch Thursday August 8, 2013)

Ohio killer Billy Slagle commits suicide in cell days before he was set to be executed


A KILLER facing execution on Wednesday has been found dead in his cell Sunday on Ohio’s death row in an apparent suicide.

Prison spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said Billy Slagle, 44, was found dead in his cell about 5am local time Sunday at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution south of Columbus, Ohio. He was declared dead within the hour.

No other details were immediately provided.

Slagle was sentenced to die for fatally stabling neighbour Mari Anne Pope in 1987 during a Cleveland burglary while two young children were present.

In a rare move, the prosecutor in Cleveland asked the Ohio Parole Board to spare Slagle. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said jurors today, with the option of life without parole, would be unlikely to sentence Slagle to death.

The parole board and Governor John Kasich both rejected mercy for Slagle.

Last week, Slagle’s attorney argued that a jury never got the chance to hear the full details of his troubled childhood.

The attorneys, arguing for a new trial and to delay his execution, said that information met requirements for asking for a new trial, which normally must happen within four months of a conviction.

Slagle was “unavoidably prevented” from filing his request because his original attorneys didn’t develop and present the evidence, the filing said.

Mr McGinty and Slagle’s attorneys had cited his age – at 18, he was barely old enough for execution in Ohio – and his history of alcohol and drug addiction. (Associated Press)

OHIO: Ohio gov.: No clemency despite DA’s plea


Ohio Gov. John Kasich has rejected clemency for a condemned Cleveland killer despite a prosecutor’s rare plea to commute his sentence to life without parole.

Kasich announced his decision Wednesday not to grant mercy to death row inmate Billy Slagle in his neighbor’s 1987 stabbing death.

Attorneys for the 44-year-old Slagle had long argued he deserved clemency because he was just 18 at the time of the slaying and already a drug addict and alcoholic with a chaotic upbringing.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty had changed his office’s approach to capital punishment and says he doubts it could obtain a death sentence for Slagle under today’s laws.

Friends of victim Mari Anne Pope say sparing Slagle would have dishonored the jury’s sentence.

(source: Associated Press)

Obese former death rown inmate dies in Ohio -Ronald Post


CLEVELAND (Reuters) – A convicted Ohio killer who sought to be spared the death penalty because he was obese died Thursday at a Columbus hospital of natural causes, an Ohio prison spokeswoman said.

Ronald Post, 53, who weighed more than 450 pounds, had been scheduled to be executed by lethal injection last January for the aggravated murder in 1983 of motel desk clerk Helen Vantz during a robbery.

The execution was commuted to life in prison by Ohio Governor John Kasich last December, following a recommendation by a parole board panel. The panel had found numerous omissions, missed opportunities and questionable decisions by defense attorneys.

Post had previously appealed unsuccessfully to stop his execution on grounds his extreme weight created a substantial risk that he would have a “torturous and lingering death” if executed by lethal injection.

Post died of undisclosed causes Thursday morning at Franklin Medical Center, Ricky Seyfang, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said on Friday. Seyfang said Post’s death was “medically expected.”

Post had been sentenced to death by a three-judge panel in 1985 for Vantz’s murder after entering a plea of no-contest.

Post’s lawyers argued that previous counsel should not have advised him to enter a no contest plea without assurances he would not face the death penalty.

Post told the clemency board he never confessed to killing Vantz, as prosecutors portrayed, and had only confessed to driving a man who he said committed the crime to the motel and waiting in a vehicle outside. (Reuters)

US – Executions Scheduled for 2013 June 18 – November



Month State Inmate
June
18 OK James DeRosa  – executed
24 FL Marshall Gore    STAYED
25 OK Brian Davis Executed
26 TX Kimberly McCarthy executed
July
10 TX Rigoberto Avila – execution moved to January1, 2014
16 TX John Quintanilla executed
18 TX Vaughn Ross executed
25 AL Andrew Lackey
31 TX Douglas Feldman
August
7 OH Billy Slagle
18-24 CO Nathan Dunlap – Stayed
September
19 TX Robert Garza
25 OH Harry Mitts
26 TX Arturo Diaz
October
9 TX Michael Yowell
November
14 OH Ronald Phillips