Ohio governor rejects mercy for killer of 3-year-old

AP News
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Posted: Dec 21, 2016 5:24 PM
Ohio governor rejects mercy for killer of 3-year-old

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday rejected mercy for the first inmate scheduled for execution next year under a new process for putting condemned prisoners to death.

The governor also delayed the execution of Ronald Phillips by one month following a federal judge's order last week that temporarily put executions on hold.

Phillips is now scheduled for execution on Feb. 15. He would be the first inmate put to death in Ohio in three years. Phillips was sentenced to die for the 1993 rape and killing of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter.

Kasich's decision was expected; he rejected mercy for Phillips three years ago, and the Ohio Parole Board recommended against clemency earlier this month.

"Given the extremely brutal nature of the offense committed against an innocent 3-year-old child, I agree with the Ohio Parole Board's recommendation that clemency is not warranted in this case," the governor said in a statement.

Kasich also granted a short reprieve to death row inmate Raymond Tibbetts, scheduled to die in February but now set for April 12.

Tibbetts' attorneys declined comment. A message was left with attorneys for Phillips, who had asked that their client be spared. They call the case tragic but argue that Phillips is not among the worst of the worst offenders.

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh has said that Phillips refuses to accept responsibility and it's time for justice to be served.

Federal magistrate Michael Merz in Dayton issued the delay last week amid a challenge of a state law that shields details about the lethal injection drugs the Ohio prisons agency plans to use.

At the time, Merz said the stay could be lifted if a federal appeals court hands down a ruling in the shield law challenge before Phillips' previously scheduled execution on Jan. 12.

The state disagrees with the judge's ruling, but the reprieves should provide enough time to resolve any legal issues, said Kasich spokeswoman Emmalee Kalmbach.

Tibbetts, 59, was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing 67-year-old Fred Hicks to death at Hicks' Cincinnati home in 1997. Tibbetts received life imprisonment without parole for killing his own wife, 42-year-old Judith Crawford, by beating her with a bat and stabbing her during an argument over Tibbetts' crack cocaine habit the same day.

The parole board voted 10-2 against recommending mercy for Phillips on Dec. 9, turning down arguments that Phillips was the product of a horrific upbringing and that his trial was marked by legal mistakes and missteps.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction plans to execute Phillips and two other inmates with a three-drug combination that's similar to a method it used several years ago.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/andrew-welsh-huggins