Governor Kasich: Please Stop the Execution of Billy Slagle!

This comes from an email received on July 22nd. We urge the Ohio governor to stop the execution of Mr Billy Slagle:

Native American Billy Slagle, a pen pal of mine, is on death row for a crime he committed in 1987 when he was just 18 years old. A psychiatrist testified at trial that his emotional age was only 12. Billy’s tragic life leading up to the murder of Mari Ann Pope– a life marked by abuse, neglect, drug and alcohol abuse– explains why this young man of 18 years had not emotionally developed beyond age 12. He became already an alcoholic at the age of four. No one can blame alcoholism on a child of four years.
According to the 2011 Parole Boards’s report Joseph Wilhelm of the Federal Public Defender’s Office told the parole board that “Slagle was a broken person who had a broken brain from chemical addiction, a broken childhood from abuse and neglect and was emotionally retarded”.
A federal appellate judge said prosecutors were “most vile” during the murder trial. U.S. Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore described Slagle’s trial in CuyahogaCounty as infected with unfairness, and said his conviction should be overturned because prosecutors in Cleveland repeatedly made inflammatory comments during the trial.
Judge Moore, the only member of the panel with a Cleveland tie and former Case Western Reserve University law professor, was highly critical of remarks prosecutors made that portrayed Slagle, an American Indian, “as a nonbeliever or a believer of dubious faith.”
U.S. Circuit Judge John Rogers, who delivered the majority opinion, said 15 improper comments were made during the trial, but found none were strong enough to cause a miscarriage of justice.
Some of the comments included statements that Slagle “has no conscience” and that his life “has been one big lie” and that he was “one of the greatest threats against community and civilization.” The prosecutors also belittled defense witnesses, calling one expert on alcoholism a person who offered “only liberal quack theories.”
I was sorely shocked to get to know that Ohio Parole Board recommended in a unanimous vote in 2011, that the Governor of Ohio should deny Billy Slagle’s clemency request.
After a stay of all executions in Ohio from 2011 to 2013 – due to juridical problems with a new execution protocol – the Ohio Parole Board voted 6-4 to turn down a new request for clemency for Billy Slagle on July 16th, 2013, despite the mitigating circumstances, although even Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty asked the Ohio Parole Board to recommend clemency to the Governor of Ohio to commute Billy Slagle’s death sentence to life without parole. I endorse his request wholeheartedly taking into account the mitigating circumstances of Native American Billy Slagle who was a teenager and chronic alcoholic when he committed the crime.
Billy Slagle is not the teenager anymore who committed a crime in 1987. Billy Slagle is no alcoholic anymore. He is a grown-up kind man who has spent more than the half of his lifetime on death row. He has changed entirely, and feels deep remorse for the crime that he committed as a juvenile of 18 years. 

“I’m neither inherently evil nor a bad person, but rather someone that has made a terrible mistake and wishes that I could take that night all back,” Billy Slagle wrote in a statement to the board in 2011. I know my friend Billy deserves the mercy of the Governor of Ohio!
Please ask Governor Kasich to stop the execution of my friend Billy despite the denial of the request to recommend clemency to him by 6 members of the Board!
Remembering the words of the New Testament “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40) I am imploring Ohio to show clemency to Native American Billy Slagle! 

Please urge Governor Kasich to spare the life of Native American Billy Slagle!

Thank you. 

Ohio Parole Board Adds New Members

It still seems strange that the prisons director chooses who is on the parole board…
From ABC6:

July 6th 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio prisons director has added three members to the state parole board after removing two others with little explanation.
The nine-person board considers release requests from thousands of inmates, along with clemency requests from condemned prisoners.
The newest members include Andre Imbrogno, a former Department of Rehabilitation and Correction attorney. The others are Marc Houk, a former warden at several prisons, and Ron Nelson, a longtime DRC administrator.
They were appointed by prisons director Gary Mohr and started their duties July 2.
Democratic state Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard of Columbus alleged last month the removals of Jose Torres and Cathy Collins-Taylor were politically motivated, because both were appointed by former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.
The prisons system said Mohr selects career-oriented corrections professionals committed to his reform efforts.

"Prisons director removes 2 from Ohio Parole Board"

OH PW was alerted to this headline by someone who rightly asked: how is it possible that the prisons director has a say in who is on the Parole Board? And that this director can remove people from this Board? Sounds like a conflict of interest?

“The members who were removed had participated in the most recent clemency decision, (death row inmate John Eley) with one in favor of mercy and the other against it.”

From: Youngstown Vindicator:
June 22nd 2012

COLUMBUS (AP) — The state prisons chief has removed two of the nine members of the Ohio Parole Board.

The Dayton Daily News reports Director Gary Mohr removed Cathy Collins-Taylor and Jose Torres from the board this week without much explanation. A spokeswoman said only that Mohr is making changes to improve the prisons system and is looking to find “the right people for the right positions.”

The board considers the possible release of thousands of inmates. Ohio’s parole rate was 6.9 percent last year, down from about 26 percent in 2001 and more than 48 percent in 2004.

The board also reviews clemency requests from condemned inmates.
The members who were removed had participated in the most recent clemency decision, with one in favor of mercy and the other against it.

Former Prosecutor and Sentencing Judge Say Ohio Death Sentence Inappropriate

From: Death Penalty Information Center:

The prosecutor who helped secure the death sentence of John Eley (pictured) and one of the presiding judges who sentenced him to death recently asked the Ohio Parole Board to recommend clemency instead. Former Mahoning County prosecutor Gary Van Brocklin told the state parole board that Eley should be spared from execution because the type of crime he committed is no longer usually prosecuted as a death penalty case and is not so egregious as to deserve capital punishment. Van Brocklin said, “It wasn’t in the more heinous nature of cases that now receive the death penalty.” Van Brocklin also said that Eley was acting under the instruction of a man named Melvin Green, who was the mastermind behind the shooting. Green was acquitted of the murder, in part because Eley refused to testify against him.

Judge Peter C. Economus, who is now a federal judge but who had voted for Eley’s death sentence in Ohio, wrote to the Parole Board, saying he originally agreed with the death sentence only because Eley’s attorneys presented little mitigating evidence:  “If I had been presented the additional mitigating evidence outlined in the clemency petition at the time of the trial, especially evidence of Mr. Eley’s low intellectual functioning, his impoverished childhood, his significant alcohol and substance abuse, and his probable brain impairment, I would have voted for a sentence less than death.”  The judge asked that clemency be given and expressed surprise that the sentence had not been lowered earlier by the courts.

Attorneys for John Eley presented evidence of his mental disabilities, alcohol and drug abuse, and of his mental illness in their petition for clemency. Eley is scheduled for execution on July 26 unless Governor John Kasich decides to spare his life.

(“Prosecutor seeks mercy for condemned Ohio killer,” Associated Press, June 13, 2012; letter of Judge Economus to Ohio Parole Board and Gov. Kasich, June 7, 2012). 
See Clemency and New Voices.  Listen to DPIC’s audio podcast on Clemency

UPDATE: Follow-up letter of Van Brocklin to Ohio Parole Board, June 13, 2012. 
UPDATE: Ohio Parole Board voted 5-3 against recommending clemency, but noted the statements of the former prosecutor and judge.  Gov. Kasich will make the final decision on clemency, and does not have to follow the Board’s recommendation.

Keep following the Updates here