Ohio jury votes to send convicted killer back to death row

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 07, 2011 5:43 PM
Ohio jury votes to send convicted killer back to death row

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - An Ohio jury Wednesday recommended the death penalty for convicted murderer Rayshawn Johnson, 13 years after his original death sentence.

Johnson, convicted and sentenced to death in 1998 for robbing and beating to death his neighbor, Shanon Marks, appealed his conviction and was granted a new penalty phase trial three years ago.

A Hamilton County jury listened to testimony from the police and crime scene investigators as well as Johnson's family members. It took a little more than a day for the jury to decide that Johnson deserved death.

In his appeal, Johnson claimed his attorneys failed to adequately investigate his childhood and violated his right to effective assistance of counsel during the penalty phase of his trial.

In the majority opinion by the 6th District Court, Johnson's attorneys were accused of never reading an Ohio Department of Human Services report regarding their client's abusive childhood and of putting on "an anemic and leaderless investigation."

Defense attorney Will Welsh called Johnson's mother to testify earlier this week and she admitted to putting drugs in her son's bottle to get him to go to sleep.

The husband of Johnson's victim also took the stand and told jurors about finding his 28-year-old wife's body on the floor of the bathroom of their Cincinnati home. She had been robbed and beaten with a baseball bat. Detectives and crime lab examiners also testified for the prosecution.

After Marks' death in 1997, Johnson appeared on a number of local news broadcasts expressing his dismay at the crime. During an interview, police noticed that the soles of his shoes resembled prints lifted from the crime scene. Shortly after, Johnson confessed to the murder.

On Monday, the jury heard an unsworn statement from Johnson apologizing for his crime and asking the jury to consider mercy so that he can be part of his 14-year-old son's life.

A judge can accept or reject the jury's recommendation when Johnson is re-sentenced December 21.

(Writing and reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Jerry Norton)