Ohio court weighs 4 execution date requestsWritten by Associated Press | | firstname.lastname@example.org
After arguing with his mother in her Cincinnati apartment, crack cocaine addict Jeffrey Hill stabbed Emma Hill 10 times in the chest and back, stole $20 and spent the money on cocaine.
He then returned to the apartment and stole another $80.
That was March 23, 1991. On July 1, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters asked the Ohio Supreme Court to set an execution date for Hill.
The pending request is among four before the state Supreme Court and one of several expected to come in the next few months.
Ohio has between 15 and 20 inmates who have exhausted their appeals and are probably eligible – or “ripe” in the language of attorneys – for an execution date, according to both the State Public Defender’s Office and the Ohio Attorney General.
The number is unprecedented for a state that has executed 28 inmates since 1999 but which still has a majority of its original death row inmates behind bars. There are 177 men and two women currently on death row.
“We haven’t had this kind of situaton in Ohio before where we’ve had this many cases all ripe,” Matt Kanai, head of the Attorney General’s capital crimes unit, said Monday.
The beginning of what could be a steady flow of execution requests began in April after the U.S. Supreme Court, ruling on a Kentucky inmate’s appeal, upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection.
Up until that decision, the nation had experienced a seven-month unofficial moratorium on executions while the high court heard arguments in the case and made its ruling.
After the decision, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office asked prosecutors to coordinate how they filed their requests for fear of swamping the state Supreme Court.
“We weren’t really sure what the Supreme Court of Ohio would do if it received 16 execution requests in one fell swoop,” Kanai said. “We tried to have the prosecutors exercise some discretion in avoiding that kind of logjam.”
The result: County prosecutors have asked for execution dates in just eight cases since April.
Two of them were denied, and two were granted: for Gregory Bryant-Bey of Toledo and Richard Cooey of Akron.
Cooey was executed last month for raping and killing two University of Akron students in 1986. Bryant-Bey was executed Wednesday for killing and robbing a Toledo collectibles store owner in 1992.
The remaining four requests are pending before the Ohio Supreme Court.
State Public Defender Timothy Young said he’s hopeful the court will not set too many dates too soon.
“I don’t believe as a society we have a stomach for execution on top of execution on top of execution,” Young said Monday.
“Each of these cases is such a momentous step,” he said. “It seems to me you need to take each of those cases very individually and make sure you’ve considered all the facets of it.”
Deters’ request for Hill to be executed is currently the oldest by almost two months pending before the Ohio Supreme Court.
Hill’s family, including three uncles and an aunt – the siblings of Emma Hill – are adamant they don’t want Jeffrey Hill executed and have asked Deters not to oppose their nephew’s request for clemency.
“It’s doing the family no good to kill another family member because he made the mistake of being out there on crack cocaine,” said Eddie Sanders, Jeffrey Hill’s uncle.
Deters, a longtime prosecutor with a reputation for taking a hard line on death penalty cases, told the family he can’t go along with their request.
He said he appreciates their concerns but “a jury composed of members of our community” sentenced Hill to death after hearing the details of the crime.
“As the prosecutor of Hamilton County representing the people of the State of Ohio, I am loathe to do anything to undermine the jury’s deliberative judgment,” Deters wrote the family in a July 24 letter.