Ohio: Walk to Stop Executions!

From the website: Walk Against the Death Penalty:

On Sunday October 4, 2015, abolitionists from Ohio and beyond will begin a 7 day 83 mile walk from the Lucasville prison where death row inmates are executed to the Statehouse in Columbus calling for an end to capital punishment as proposed in two bills pending in the House and Senate. 

Those unable to participate in the full walk can join the final two hour leg in Columbus on Saturday, October 10, the World Day Against the Death Penalty, or attend the 12 noon rally at Trinity Episcopal Church, 125 E. Broad St. across from the Capitol.  

Keynote speakers include OJPC director David Singleton and two murder victim family members Sam Reese Sheppard, and OTSE President Melinda Dawson.

Ohio prisoners freed 39 years after wrongful murder convictions

This is from: Deutsche Welle, Nov 21, 2014:

After decades behind bars for a 1975 murder they did not commit, Ricky Jackson and Wiley Bridgeman have walked free in Ohio. The key witness, a 12-year-old boy at the time, said police coerced him into false testimony.

Ricky Jackson, 57, and Wiley Bridgeman, 60, walked free on Friday after spending two-thirds of their lives in Ohio prisons for a murder they did not commit. The two men, and Bridgeman’s brother Ronnie, who now goes by the name Kwame Ajamu, were sentenced to death in 1975.

A child, Eddie Vernon, testified that he saw the trio kill businessman Harry Franks on May 19 that year. Vernon recently admitted that he never saw the murder, saying that police detectives had coerced him into giving false testimony in the trial.

“The English language doesn’t even fit what I’m feeling, I’m on an emotional high,” Jackson said on Friday after his release, also saying that he harbored no ill will towards witness Vernon.
“I guess a lot of people will want me to hate that person and carry animosity towards them, but I don’t,” Jackson said. “People see him as a grown man today, but in 1975 he was a 12-year-old kid and he was manipulated and coerced by the police and they used him to get us in prison. As far as that young man is concerned, I wish him the best. I don’t hate him, I just wish he has a good life.”
Once set for death penalty, now pardoned

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, a University of Michigan project tracking wrongful convictions, Jackson’s 39 years in prison make him the longest-serving exoneree in US history.

The three-year process leading to the exonerations started with a story published in Scene Magazine in 2011, detailing flaws in the case and questionable elements of star witness Vernon’s testimony. Vernon, now 52, recanted in 2013 when a religious official visited him.

During a court hearing for Jackson on Tuesday, Vernon broke down as he described detectives’ threats before the trial, and the burden of guilt he had shouldered since. By Thursday, prosecutors had filed a motion to dismiss all charges against the three men.

After Scene’s 2011 article, the Ohio branch of Innocence Project, a national organization fighting to exonerate people convicted wrongfully, took up Jackson and Bridgeman’s cause.

ll three men were initially handed the death sentence, but their sentences were later commuted to life in prison. According to Mark Godsey from the Ohio Innocence Project, “one of them came within 20 days of execution before Ohio ruled the death penalty unconstitutional.”

Ronnie Bridgeman, now Kwame Ajamu, was released in 2003; he attended both men’s exoneration hearings on Friday.

Ex-inmates say innocent men remain on Death Row

From: Columbus Dispatch, April 12th, 2013

Derrick Jamison has moved to Louisiana since his 2005 release from Ohio’s Death Row. But the former Cincinnati resident said he is compelled to return by memories of the men he saw put to death during the 20 years he spent behind bars after being wrongly convicted.

“I watched so many of my friends get murdered. It still haunts me to this day,” he told a group gathered yesterday at Capital University Law School. “They grew up to be strong, healthy young men taken up out of their cells and murdered, strapped down on a gurney … and poison shot into their blood.

“That’s why we do what we do. That’s why we got to speak out … I’m coming back to fight for my people, the guys I left behind on Death Row.”

Jamison, 52; Dale Johnston, 79, of the Grove City area; and Joe D’Ambrosio, 51, of North Olmstead, are part of a statewide “Innocence Tour” sponsored by Ohioans to Stop Executions and Witness to Innocence.
Jamison was convicted in the 1984 death of Cincinnati bartender Gary Mitchell. Johnston was exonerated in 1990 after serving seven years in the dismemberment slayings of his stepdaughter, Annette Cooper, and her friend Todd Schultz in Hocking County. D’Ambrosio was imprisoned nearly 23 years in the 1988 murder of 19-year-old Anthony Klann of Cleveland.

All three men said investigators improperly withheld witnesses or other evidence that could have exonerated them or implicated others in the crimes.

“Hopefully, we can open up some eyes and minds to what is going on in this state because somebody’s got to do something,” D’Ambrosio said. “They’re murdering people in your name. And they’re innocent.”
The men are among six Ohio Death Row inmates who were released after taking an average of 17 years to prove they were wrongfully convicted, said Kevin Werner, the executive director of Ohioans to Stop Executions. Nationwide, 142 Death Row inmates have been released. It took an average of 9.5 years to prove their cases.

Werner urged judicial and legislative leaders to review capital-punishment cases for evidence of ineffective defense attorneys, withheld evidence and other signs of improper convictions.

“I think they ought to review every single individual case on Death Row and look for reasons to say, ‘Maybe we made a mistake’ instead of ‘Let’s just maintain the status quo, uphold convictions, move on,’  ” he said.

Ohio has executed 50 people since it resumed the practice in 1999.

Read the rest here.

Brett Hartman executed by the state of Ohio

This morning Brett Hartman was executed by the State of Ohio. We send our condolences to the family and friends of Brett, who have stood with him till the end. He has always remained he is innocent of the crime he was convicted for. There was no motive for this senseless killing, that Brett allegedly did. Why would he do what he was accused of doing and what he was condemned for?

That it was all politics is clear: there was the untested DNA, the change of the time of death of the victim, making Brett’s alibi’s not valid, the jailhouse snitch, who was paid to testify falsely, etc. The prosecutors made sure their story fitted the outcome they wanted. We know justice is not done: there is too much doubt, and to kill someone is always wrong, whether it is the State that carries out a killing or a lone gunman/woman. What if they did kill the wrong man? How are the killers going to face their conscience? Where is the “rehabilitation” in the death penalty?

Brett is free now, and those who have blood on their hands, have to one day explain their wrongdoings to higher instances than an Ohio court of law.

Death of death penalty? Not in Hamilton County

And plz cast your vote in the poll in the middle of this article…
Read it here: Cincinnati.com Commmunity Press:
June 2nd 2012
Notes:
We should ask ourselves: do we want to commit the same crime (murder) as the person we are condemning? We who claim to respect life more than the one we call murderer. Are we really morally better?

We must ask ourselves if we are not acting out of revenge rather than justice.

We must confort and help the relatives of the victims as much as possible.

We must take away as much of what can cause a murder as possible from society.

We must raise and educate children responsibly.

Solidarity Rally and March: Protest Ohio’s Prison Industrial Complex – April 7th in Columbus, Ohio

Saturday, April 7th – 1pm – 3pm
Gather at Broad & High (Statehouse sidewalk)

Several organizations and activist groups are uniting for a rally and march to call for an end to the injustices in Ohio’s prison industrial complex. Bob Fitrakis, journalist, author, and professor of political science at Columbus State Community College will speak at the rally.

The rally will be followed by a march west on Broad Street to the Ohio Dept of Rehabilitation and Correction at 770 West Broad Street. We are demanding:

           – End the death penalty
           – Release the framed Lucasville Five
           – Parole for old law prisoners – presumption for parole when eligible
           – Right to a life for released prisoners – remove the barriers to employment and housing

Death Penalty. Execution is a cruel and brutal practice. Further, the arbitrariness in the application of the death penalty violates the principles of fundamental justice. Execution – whether done by a mob or a government – is murder.

Lucasville Five. Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Namir Abdul Mateen, Jason Robb, George Skatzes, Bomani Shakur, all on death row. Within a few hours after the uprising at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility began,
these five men took leadership, seeking to minimize violence. They did save the lives of several men, prisoner and guard alike. But the State of Ohio deliberately framed these five innocent men for murder, on the basis of testimony by prisoners who, in exchange for their testimony, received benefits such as early parole. (See “Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising” by Staughton Lynd at http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1772_reg.html.)

Old Law Prisoners. Old law prisoners are those sentenced before 1996 when Ohio passed a truth-in-sentencing law. There are 3,200 of these old-law prisoners who are eligible for parole. All have been
incarcerated for at least 16 years and some for many more – even decades. At the time these prisoners were sentenced, the judges’ expectation and the Parole Board practice was to grant parole upon eligibility or two or three years later, but over time the Parole Board changed its practice, becoming progressively harsher, and now repeatedly denies parole. Sixteen years is too long – it is time to release these men. (See “Truth in Sentencing: 3200 prisoners stuck in Ohio Prisons”  at http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/18/2012/4537.)

Right to Rebuild a Life Upon Release. It is close to impossible in the year 2012 for a released Ohio prisoner to rebuild a life – because of the multiple barriers to employment and housing. Ohio now has over 800 laws that restrict former prisoners’ access to employment, housing, and education – civil collateral consequences of imprisonment – huge barriers to return to society. With no money, no job, no place to
live, a return to crime becomes more likely. The greatest cost is destruction of lives, but in addition increased recidivism has large financial cost for the State of Ohio.
———————————————————-
Sponsor: Central Ohio Prisoner Advocates:
centralohio.prisoneradvocates@gmail.com
http://centralohioprisoneradvocates.wordpress.com/

Is Ohio Keeping Another Innocent Man on Death Row?

Yes, and more! Stop the death penalty!

From The Atlantic
Jan 31st 2012
Instead of searching for the truth, the state is going to absurd lengths to defend a dubious death sentence.

Last year, the execution of Troy Davis captured most of the attention, and generated most of the debate, on the topic of capital punishment in America. Davis was put to death by lethal injection in Georgia three quarters of the way through a year that saw a general decline in support for (and implementation of) the death penalty. This year, just a few weeks in, there’s an early candidate for such a spotlight: a death row inmate in Ohio whose case raises many of the same questions about fair trials and justice that surrounded the Davis case.

In fact, you could argue that the capital murder case against Tyrone Noling is even weaker than the one against Troy Davis. And you could argue that the capital punishment regime in Ohio is just as arbitrary and capricious as it is most anywhere else. In 1996, Noling was convicted of murdering Cora and Bearnhardt Hartig, an elderly couple, at their home in 1990. At first, though, there was no physical evidence linking Noling to the crime. Not a gun. Not any blood. Not any money or loot. And at first, there were no witnesses against him, either.

Frustrated prosecutors then gave the case to an investigator named Ron Craig and everything changed. Noling was indicted in 1992, but prosecutors soon had to drop the charges against him after he passed a polygraph case — and after his co-defendant at the time changed his mind and refused to incriminate him. Just so we are straight, in 1992, there was no physical evidence linking Noling to the crime, he had passed a lie detector test, and witnesses were already turning on the investigator.

Tyrone Noling (Ohio Dept. of Corrections)

But a few years later — under threat from Craig, they now say — a few folks stepped forward to testify against Noling. They placed him at the crime scene and they testified that he had confessed to killing the Hartigs. Noling’s jury deliberated for about day before returning guilty verdicts. Noling was quickly sentenced to death. The state’s website duly notes that Noling arrived at its death row on February 21, 1996. He has maintained his innocence ever since.

There are several legitimate reasons why Noling deserves a new trial, especially in a state with a long history of wrongful capital convictions. There are a lot of flawed capital convictions all over the country — pick a state, any state, where the death penalty is still a priority for prosecutors and you’ll find such a case. But a closer look at this case reveals virtually all of the system’s main flaws at one time and in one place. The only thing missing from the story is racial bias, which likely would have only made things worse. (As of September 30, 2011, there were 148 inmates on Ohio’s death row, 65 of them white males like Noling.)

Read the rest here.

INNOCENCE: Ohio’s "Substantial Inequitable Conduct" Leads to Nation’s 140th Death Row Exoneration

From: Death Penalty Information Center:

On January 23, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by the state of Ohio challenging the unconditional writ of habeas corpus and bar to the re-prosecution of Joe D’Ambrosio (pictured), thus ending the capital case. He has now been freed from death row with all charges dismissed. A federal District Court had first overturned D’Ambrosio’s conviction in 2006 because the state had withheld key evidence from the defense. The federal court originally allowed the state to re-prosecute him, but just before trial the state revealed the existence of even more important evidence and requested further delay. Also the state did not divulge in a timely manner that the key witness against D’Ambrosio had died.

In 2010, the District Court barred D’Ambrosio’s re-prosecution because of the prosecutors’ misconduct. The court concluded that these developments biased D’Ambrosio’s chances for a fair trial, and hence the state was barred from retrying him. District Court Judge Kathleen O’Malley wrote:

“For 20 years, the State held D’Ambrosio on death row, despite wrongfully withholding evidence that ‘would have substantially increased a reasonable juror’s doubt of D’Ambrosio’s guilt.’ Despite being ordered to do so by this Court … the State still failed to turn over all relevant and material evidence relating to the crime of which D’Ambrosio was convicted. Then, once it was ordered to provide D’Ambrosio a constitutional trial or release him within 180 days, the State did neither. During those 180 days, the State engaged in substantial inequitable conduct, wrongfully retaining and delaying the production of yet more potentially exculpatory evidence… To fail to bar retrial in such extraordinary circumstances surely would fail to serve the interests of justice.”

In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the bar to re-prosecution. (D’Ambrosio v. Bagley, No. 10-3247, Aug. 29, 2011). Even the dissent referred to the state’s “remarkable inability to competently prosecute D’Ambrosio.” The state appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court mainly on jurisdictional grounds, but was denied certiorari on Jan. 23. (Bagley v. D’Ambrosio, No. 11-672, denying cert.).

D’Ambrosio is 140th former death row inmate to be exonerated since 1973 and the 6th from Ohio. He was first indicted for the offense in 1988.

(See D’Ambrosio v. Bagley, 6th Cir., No. 10-3247, August 29, 2011; see also DPIC’s prior post; current post Jan. 23, 2012). See also Innocence and Arbitrariness.

State Rep. Antonio Renews Request for a Moratorium on Executions

From: Lakewood Patch
By: Colin McEwen
On or around: Jan 12, 2012
State Rep. Nickie Antonio (D- 13) joined two other state officials in supporting a renewed call for a moratorium on executions in Ohio.

Antonio — along with democrats Ted Celeste (Columbus) and state senator Edna Brown — sent a letter last week to Gov. John Kasich in response to U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost’s decision to delay next week’s execution, because of the State’s failure to follow its own protocol, according to a news release.

Here’s a copy of the letter:

January 12, 2011

The Honorable John Kasich
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High St.
Columbus, OH 43215

Dear Governor Kasich:

We are writing to respectfully renew our request for a moratorium on the execution of any death row inmates while the Death Penalty Joint Task Force continues to deliberate and contemplate the policies of capital punishment.

We would like to bring to your attention recent and timely developments, which we believe emphasize the need for quick action on this matter and further justify our request for a moratorium:

With the Task Force holding its second meeting today, this august body of judges, prosecuting attorneys, criminal defense counsel, legislative leaders and academics is currently considering changes to the criteria, laws, and procedures regarding the imposition of the death penalty. We believe that, as this group of experts continues to discuss issues of fairness in the application of the death penalty, the State should not proceed with any executions until the Task Force publishes its recommendations.

Second, US District Court Judge Gregory Frost’s halt of next week’s execution on the grounds that proper protocol was not followed during the most previous execution in November highlights concrete evidence that the State of Ohio has failed to adhere to its own lethal injection policies on numerous occasions. The Department of Corrections failed to document the drugs used in November’s execution, and also failed to review the medical chart of the inmate put to death.

For a process with a result so absolute as death, it is inadmissible for the State to behave improperly by not following a scrupulous list of instructions. In July 2011, Judge Frost gave the Department of Corrections a direct order to review and revise its guidelines, citing the State’s inconsistent application of its lethal injection process. After being given a second chance to correct its errors, the DRC has in effect failed to follow through on its own reforms.

We applaud Judge Frost for his responsible decision in the face of contradiction, and cite this as one more reason why Ohio should become the next state that replaces capital punishment with life without parole.

The State must be held accountable for upholding the very laws it enacts. Therefore, Senator Edna Brown has introduced Senate Bill 270, companion legislation to House Bill 160 (sponsored by Reps. Antonio & Celeste), which replaces capital punishment with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Senate Bill 270 will soon have its first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. We look forward to ongoing discussions pertaining to this legislation in both chambers of the General Assembly.

This past September, we visited the Ohio State Penitentiary with House Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Lynn Slaby and Ranking Minority Member Roland Winburn. We met with death row inmates face-to-face who conceded that they would rather be executed than spend the rest of their lives behind bars. Indeed, to spend the rest of one’s life in prison without the possibility of parole is a worse punishment than a quick and painless death. Life imprisonment is also cheaper than capital punishment, and it eliminates the risk of wrongfully executing innocent inmates.

Next week, we will tour the Chillicothe Correctional Institution following the transfer of death row inmates from the Ohio State Penitentiary. We look forward to this educational visit and are eager to have more discussions with other death row inmates.

Now more than ever, we believe there are flaws in Ohio’s death sentence that must be addressed. Ohio has exonerated five inmates that together have spent over 81 years on death row for crimes they did not commit. We applaud your leadership in commuting two death row inmates to life without parole in 2011. Particularly in light of Judge Frost’s most recent ruling that the State of Ohio has continually failed to follow its own lethal injection guidelines, we respectfully renew our request for a moratorium on the execution of any death row inmates while the Joint Task Force is deliberating and contemplating the policies of the death penalty.

Our Criminal Justice System must uphold justice and respect for all Ohioans. Your executive power will ensure that those who are scheduled to be executed are treated equally to those who are on death row after the Joint Task Force implements possible changes to the death penalty. We are calling on you to issue an executive order to commute those scheduled to die a temporary stay while the Joint Task Force carries out its duties and recommends policies and implements new procedures.

Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Senator Edna Brown
State Rep. Nickie J. Antonio
State Rep. Ted Celeste

Death Penalty: Danish drug maker Lundbeck sells drug used by several states in lethal injection process

From: The Republic, Dec 22nd 2011
By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The only U.S.-licensed maker of a drug used by several states to execute inmates is selling the product to another drug manufacturer, saying pentobarbital — a sedative never intended for capital punishment — wasn’t an important product for the firm.

Denmark-based Lundbeck Inc. said a distribution system meant to keep the drug out of the hands of prisons will remain in place as Lake Forest, Ill.-based Akorn Inc. acquires the drug.

Lundbeck acquired pentobarbital, also known by its trademark name, Nembutal, when it purchased Deerfield, Ill.-based Ovation Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 2009. The Ovation purchase targeted that company’s newer drugs and never involved an interest in pentobarbital, Lundbeck spokesman Mads Kronborg said Thursday.

Lundbeck said it would have sold off pentobarbital earlier but delayed the sale when controversy over its use in executions arose so that the company could restrict its use for capital punishment.

Lundbeck’s system sells the product directly to hospitals and treatment centers using its previous distributor, Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health, to ship the product.

“We have dealt with that very, very difficult dilemma that we were put in by this … misuse that we are so strongly against,” Kronborg said. “We handled that dilemma to the best of our ability.”

Lundbeck, like other companies whose drugs took on an unintended role in U.S. executions, had asked states to stop using their product for capital punishment.

Messages left with Akorn seeking comment weren’t immediately returned.

Several states, including Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas, switched to pentobarbital after supplies of a previous execution drug dried up. States are expected to need a new drug soon as supplies dwindle because of the restrictions, which took effect in July.

Read the rest here.