Discussion:
death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL. N.C., GA., FLA., ALA., OHIO
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Rick Halperin
2017-05-04 14:42:25 UTC
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Raw Message
May 4



TEXAS:

13 % of Texas death row inmates wait 25 years or more for execution


Texas has executed 23 inmates since 2014, but 32 of the 238 condemned inmates
have been awaiting execution for 25 years or more. That wait is nearly a decade
more than the average time elapsed between conviction and execution nationally.

Scroll through the gallery to see which Texas death row inmates have waited
more than 25 years for execution

For some Texas death row inmates, being condemned can feel like a life
sentence.

Roughly 13 % (30 of 238) of the inmates awaiting execution in the Lone Star
State have been on death row for 25 years or more. That length of stay is
nearly a decade above the national average time awaiting execution of 15 years
and 9 months.

The longest resident of death row in Texas, Raymond Riles, has been sitting in
solitary confinement (except for doctor visits and court appearances) since
February 1976.

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, 41 inmates on death row
have died either of natural causes or suicide while awaiting execution.

This is in a state that has executed 23 people in the last 3 years and isn't
shy about carrying out death sentences.

But, the state is also suing the federal government to get a hold of a shipment
of the lethal injection drug Pentobarbital.

While that is tied up in court, there's little the state can do if it runs out
of the current supply of the sedative, prolonging the time on death row for the
inmates and the wait for the victim's families.

(source: Houston Chronicle)






DELAWARE:

Death penalty supporters pass 1st test


Legislators from both parties say they will try to re-institute the death
penalty in Delaware this year, but might they face an uphill battle.

The General Assembly took the 1st step towards reinstating the death penalty in
Delaware on Wednesday when a committee voted 7-4 to send legislation to the the
full House of Representatives for a vote.

A vote in the full House is expected on Thursday.

The "Extreme Crimes Protection Act" comfortably passed the 11-member House
Judiciary committee, but the almost 2-hour hearing foreshadowed the intensity
of the battle that will be waged in Legislative Hall over the coming weeks.

Supporters of the legislation said it would limit the punishment to truly
abominable crimes that can be proved with the highest standards of truth.

But opponents of the legislation said changing the way sentences are delivered
doesn't change their opinion that the death penalty is fundamentally wrong.

"I don't think the state should be in the business of committing homicide, no
more than I think anyone else should be in the business of committing
homicide," said Rep. J.J. Johnson, D-New Castle.

Delaware's current capital punishment law is unenforceable after the state
Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional last year. In a 4-1 vote, the Court
faulted the law for allowing a judge to find that aggravating circumstances in
a crime merited a death sentence without a unanimous jury agreeing.

Aggravating circumstances can include things like crimes committed against a
police officer, crimes in which hostages are taken or if the crimes that are
"outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture
or depravity of mind."

A group of lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, are pushing to change the
law to address those concerns. Their legislation would require a unanimous jury
to rule on the aggravating circumstances and raise the burden of proof to the
highest standard.

"We're not trying to enact capital punishment, we're trying to restore it,"
said Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, the bill's chief House sponsor.

Dozens of members of the public testified during the hearing.

Many of those speaking in favor of the bill were law enforcement officers.

"We have seen over the years that there are some truly evil people who commit
truly heinous crimes," said Lt. Tom Brackin, head of the Delaware State Police
Troopers Association. "The troopers I represent and myself believe you do have
to have the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime."

Peggy Marshall Thomas, the former chief prosecutor in Sussex County, recalled
prosecuting a person who was convicted of five homicides, including 2 different
incidents after being jailed the first time. She invoked the death of Lt.
Stephen J. Ballard, who was gunned down in Bear last week.

"The murder of the uniformed officer is an extreme act of violence that
undermines our peaceful and lawful society," she said.

Brendan O'Neill, the state's public defender, said the cost of the death
penalty should give state leaders pause. His office alone has saved significant
money in the period without capital punishment cases, he said.

O'Neill and many other speakers who opposed the bill also noted that those
executed by the death penalty are disproportionately poor and black.

"If the victim is white and the defendant is black, there is a virtual
certainty that he or she will be convicted," O'Neill said.

Those opposing the legislation repeatedly referred to capital punishment as
"state-sanctioned violence" or "state-sanctioned murder," arguing it did
nothing to bring peace.

"The nations with which the US most identifies...have abolished the death
penalty," said Julie Price, representing the League of Women Voters. "They see
capital punishment as a profound human rights violation and a shocking abuse of
government power. "

Even the bill's opponents think it will pass the House on Thursday. The Senate
is where the real test will take place.

Last year, before the Supreme Court ruling, the Senate passed a bill by an
11-10 margin that would have repealed the death penalty. But since then, there
are 3 new Senators: Sen. Anthony Delcollo, R-Marshallton, Sen. Stephanie
Hansen, D-Middletown, and Sen. Jack Walsh, D-Stanton.

Another unknown: would Gov. John Carney sign the bill? If Carney vetoes the
bill, supporters of reinstatement don't have the votes to override him.

In a debate during the campaign last year, Carney said he believed the Court's
decision should stand and said he would "probably" veto a bill to reinstate
capital punishment. He has said he would "not rule out" the death penalty in
cases where a law enforcement officer is killed, but the current legislation is
broader than that.

Carney has not publicly said, however, that he would veto the bill.

(source: The News Journal)



********************

Delaware bill to reinstate death penalty passes committee, heads to House floor


A bill to reinstate Delaware's death penalty, which the state Supreme Court
declared unconstitutional last year, is headed to the House floor.

Under the bill, jurors would have to find unanimously and beyond a reasonable
doubt that a defendant should be executed.

A judge would have to agree with the jury for the death penalty to be imposed
but would have the discretion to sentence a defendant to life in prison.

A majority of justices last year declared Delaware' s death penalty law
unconstitutional because it allowed judges too much discretion and did not
require that a jury find unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt that a
defendant deserves execution.

(source: Associcated Press)






NORTH CAROLINA:

The Paper Tiger Death Penalty in North Carolina


A rush to execute death row inmates in Arkansas led to national concern about
the use of the death penalty. In North Carolina, juries continue to send people
to death row. They sentenced 16 people to death in the last 10 years. But in
that time there has not been a single execution. Some are questioning why the
country has the death penalty if it is not being used. Others advocate for
abolishing it altogether. They say it does not deliver the justice it intended,
costs too much, is not administered fairly, and could amount to cruel and
unusual punishment.

Host Frank Stasio speaks with WUNC political reporter Rusty Jacobs, Forsyth
County District Attorney Jim O'Neil, retired Southern Pines Police Chief Gerald
Galloway, Arkansas State Representative Rebecca Petty and Center for Death
Penalty Litigation staff attorney David Weiss about the death penalty. Host
Frank Stasio talks with WUNC reporter Rusty Jacobs about his upcoming feature
on the death penalty in North Carolina. He also talks with Forsyth County
District Attorney Jim O'Neill, retired Southern Pines Police Chief Gerald
Galloway, Arkansas State Representative Rebecca Petty, and Center for Death
Penalty Litigation staff attorney David Weiss about how these issues have
played out in their careers.

(source: WUNC news)






GEORGIA----impending execution

Parole Board to hear J.W. Ledford's request for clemency


The State Board of Pardons and Paroles on Wednesday scheduled appointments on
May 15 to hear from advocates for J.W. Ledford who want to stop his pending
execution and from those who want to see his sentence carried out.

As is its tradition, the morning hours are set aside for Ledford's attorneys,
family members and friends to make a pitch for clemency. The prosecutor, and
sometimes the lead investigators and the victim's relatives, will meet with the
5-person board in the afternoon.

Only the courts and the Parole Board have the authority to stop his execution
set for May 16. If the 45-year-old Ledford is put to death for the 1992 murder
of his elderly neighbor, his will be the 1st lethal injection Georgia has
carried out in 2017, coming of a record year when the state put 9 men to death.

Ledford was 20 years old, but had been drinking and using drugs half his life
when he murdered his "rather feeble" 73-year-old neighbor, Dr. Harry Johnston
on Jan. 31, 1992.

According to testimony at the death penalty trial in Murray County, Ga.,
Antoinette Johnston had just seen her husband drive away in his pickup with
someone in the passenger seat when Ledford knocked on the door and asked to
speak with the physician.

Ledford left when she told him her husband wasn't home, but he returned 15 to
20 minutes later, introducing himself and asking again to see Johnston. Ledford
left only to return a 3rd time about 10 minutes later to ask Antoinette to tell
her husband to come to his house that evening.

The 4th time Ledford came to the Johnston house he had a knife; one that
belonged to the elderly man. Ledford told Antoinette Johnston he need money for
drugs, and if he didn't get it he would kill her. Ledford tied up the woman and
left the house with 2 handguns, a rifle and a shotgun that belonged to the
family.

Antoinette Johnston freed herself in time to see Ledford drive off in her
husband's truck.

Within the next 30 minutes, Ledford sold the rifle and shotgun at 2 different
pawnshops, stopped to buy cigarettes and was stopped on Highway 441 and
arrested.

Ledford confessed.

He told investigators Johnston was giving him a ride to the grocery store when
the older man accused him of stealing and turned around the truck and headed
back to his house.

On the side of the Johnston garage, Ledford said, Johnston knocked him to the
ground and then pulled a knife from a sheath in his belt. Ledford said he
pulled his own knife and repeatedly stabbed Johnson, almost decapitating him.

Ledford dragged the body a short distance away and covered it with tree limbs.

(source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)






FLORIDA:

The Most Powerful Lawyer In Florida Is Keeping Criminal Justice Reform At
Bay----Arthur "Buddy" Jacobs has been a stalwart advocate for retro
superpredator-era, pro-carceral policies.


Who is Buddy Jacobs, and how does he block criminal justice reform in Florida?

On a humid June day in 2016, the Nassau Community Band played at the dedication
ceremony of a $100,000 replica train platform in the small, exclusive, historic
community of Fernandina Beach, about an hour northeast of Jacksonville, right
on the Georgia/Florida border.

A century ago, a local plantation owner and a staunch confederacy supporter
built a Florida railway through the town, giving it a brief but firm foothold
in the trade history of Florida. That so-called golden age of Fernandina Beach
has come and gone. Today, Fernandina Beach is home to championship golf courses
and spas. It is a place that revels in its restored natural landscape, and the
community's disengagement with the rest of Florida which largely cannot afford
$1 million homes.

Giving the keynote speech was the founding member of the Amelia Island
Fernandina Restoration Foundation, Arthur "Buddy" Jacobs. Dressed in a virginal
white suit and straw hat, Jacobs discussed the need to preserve Fernandina
Beach's history for the future.

Buddy Jacobs isn't a stranger to preserving history. For almost 50 years,
Jacobs has served as General Counsel and Lobbyist for the Florida Prosecuting
Attorneys Association - an organization that includes the 20 elected
prosecutors for every district in Florida. Jacobs, now in his late 70s, started
lobbying on behalf of the FPAA just a few years out of law school. The FPAA
sees itself as primarily educational, and its voice is particularly strong in
the state capital as it advises the legislature on criminal justice issues.

Florida's prison population increased by more than 1000% and correction
spending increased 98% - 1.1 billion dollars - between 1994 and 2014. During
that time, Jacobs has been a stalwart advocate for retro superpredator-era
pro-carceral policies. Indeed, Buddy Jacobs is one of the most powerful forces
keeping the state stuck in the past.

Perhaps Florida's biggest criminal justice issue right is its long struggle
with the state's excessive use of the death penalty. In a 2016 report by the
Fair Punishment Project, 4 counties in Florida ranked among the "deadliest" 16
places (out of over 3,000 counties) in the country.

Florida's death row is so expansive in part due to its unusual and outdated law
allowing a non-unanimous jury to sentence a defendant to death. A 2016 study
found that nearly 3/4 of Florida's death row inmates were condemned to die
without the agreement of 12 jurors. Beginning in 2004, the Florida Supreme
Court highlighted the serious constitutional problems with this scheme and it
urged the legislature to pass a unanimity requirement to correct the problem
while bringing Florida in line with other states (no other state in the country
allows a bare majority of jurors to recommend a death sentence).

Florida sends more kids to adult prison than any other state in America.

But Jacobs, on behalf of the FPAA, vehemently opposed these changes at every
opportunity. He urged the legislature to allow non-unanimous jury verdicts in
capital cases, a position that is in line with his belief that jurors are "too
compassionate." Last year, the Florida Supreme Court held that this aspect of
Florida's capital punishment statute violated the constitution, which
effectively vacated at least 150 death sentence. Ultimately, the Florida
legislature finally made unanimous juries a requirement this year, but the
FPAA's decade-long opposition to the change will cost taxpayers millions of
dollars in re-sentencings and victim family members unquantifiable suffering.

Jacobs also advocates on behalf of the FPAA on other controversial issues. In a
brief from 2001, Jacobs opposed legislation that would allow 1st-time drug
offenders to get treatment in lieu of jail time - a diversion-type program that
exists in many jurisdictions. He also supported a law making it harder to
obtain public records. And he lobbied in favor of a law allowing prosecutors to
falsify court records to conceal the histories of informants. (Ultimately, the
Florida Supreme Court forbade the practice).

Florida sends more kids to adult prison than any other state in America. Yet,
as recently as last year, Jacobs opposed reforms to Florida's direct file
policy, which allows prosecutors to send juveniles as young as 14 years-old
directly to adult court without a hearing. Jacobs called these kids 'hardened
and bad folks" and fed into old myths about juvenile "superpredators." "These
are not Sunday school going-to-prayer-meeting young people. These are bad
hardened criminals that wreak havoc over the state of Florida," Jacobs
concluded. But, a 2014 Human Rights Watch Report found that his fiery rhetoric
lacks support in fact: 60% of kids transferred to adult court were incarcerated
for nonviolent offenses.

The irony, though, is that while Jacobs shows little mercy for those seeking a
second chance, he has experienced considerable personal legal turmoil. Trouble
first hit Jacobs in 1991, when prosecutors had him indicted for helping to
orchestrate a fraudulent municipal bond scheme in St. Louis. He entered into a
pretrial diversion program, accepted probation, and paid a $52,500 fee. Then, 7
years later, he was charged with participating in a bond scheme involving an
industrial park in Fernandina Beach. The case ultimately was dismissed, but
financial and tax problems continued to plague Jacobs.

According to bankruptcy filings, Jacobs failed to pay taxes on his income for
most of the 1990s. In 1995, he declared bankruptcy on his law practice "largely
because of those tax debts." Jacobs continued to argue into the 2000s that he
didn't need to pay his tax obligations because his failure to pay wasn't
intentional. The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit disagreed;
in 2007, the Court issued an opinion holding that "the record overwhelmingly
shows that Mr. Jacobs willfully attempted to evade or defeat his taxes,"
arguing that his behavior ' giving lavish gifts, using corporate funds for
personal transactions, and refusing to pay taxes - were "badges of fraud."

Despite his checkered background, Jacobs maintains a consistent optimism about
himself and his ability to bounce back, telling 1 reporter, "I think that
everyone has something good about them. I even have some good things about me."
In his bankruptcy pleadings, Jacobs says he is "not trying to wipe the slate
clean" but merely seeks forgiveness, "to eliminate that portion which has
become old and faded" so that he can move on.

If only he could grant the same to the citizens of Florida who lack the same
platform.

(source: Opinion; Ron Sullivan, Contributor Clinical Professor of Law and the
Director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School----Huffington
Post)

*************

Cuts planned for office of anti-death-penalty prosecutor


Florida legislators plan to take more than $1 million and 21 jobs away from a
state prosecutor who announced she won't seek the death penalty anymore.

Top Republicans announced the plan on Wednesday, the same day an association of
Florida prosecutors said that Gov. Rick Scott can legally take away almost 2
dozen cases from State Attorney Aramis Ayala in Orlando for refusing to seek
the death penalty.

Ayala has said previously that the planned $1.3 million cut and loss of jobs
could severely impact her office's ability to prosecute crimes.

The state prosecutor has come under fire after she announced she wouldn't seek
the death penalty in the case of Markeith Loyd or any other case. Loyd is
charged with killing an Orlando police lieutenant and his pregnant
ex-girlfriend earlier this year.

Scott took the Loyd case and almost 2 dozen other cases away from Ayala and
reassigned them to a neighboring prosecutor. Ayala is challenging those orders
before the Florida Supreme Court, saying the governor had no authority to do
so.

The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association filed a friend-of-the-court brief
Wednesday saying the governor did have the authority.

The prosecutors association said Ayala was attempting to legislate from her
office in violation of the Florida Constitution.

The brief called Ayala's decision not seek the death penalty "an abuse of
discretion and a neglect of her duties."

(source: Associated Press)






ALABAMA:

House Judiciary Committee approves nitrogen death penalty option


A bill that would provide nitrogen hypoxia as an execution option for death row
inmates was approved by the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

State Bill 12, sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, came about due to
complications with obtaining and administering the drugs necessary for lethal
injections, the most common execution method.

Media witnesses to the execution of Ronald Bert Smith last December said Smith
gasped and coughed for 13 minutes after receiving midazolam, a drug meant to
sedate Smith prior to the lethal injection, and the execution took 34 minutes.
Pittman also cites death row inmate Thomas Arthur as a reason for the bill.
Arthur escaped execution for the seventh time amid concerns over Alabama's
lethal injection process. Arthur argued it was inhumane; meanwhile,
pharmaceutical companies were becoming more reluctant to sell the drugs needed
for the lethal cocktail. Pittman's bill originally suggested death by firing
squad as an alternative execution method, but he changed it to nitrogen hypoxia
after speaking corrections officers and the Attorney General's office, both of
whom he said support the nitrogen bill.

"It's not only more humane, but what I think is the most humane," Pittman said.

Pittman said nitrogen hypoxia, a type of asphyxiation caused by nitrogen
displacing and depriving the tissue of oxygen, offers a painless death.
Although the method has not been tested in any country let alone any state,
death by nitrogen made headlines in India when a young man committed suicide by
inhaling nitrogen after searching the internet for a painless method of death,
according to a 2016 article by the Hindustan Times.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board published a 2003 study
that found that 80 people died from incidentally inhaling nitrogen between 1992
and 2002. Nitrogen hypoxia has also been tested and used as a euthanasia method
on animals with the American Veterinary Medical Association recommending it
chiefly for birds and encouraging the use of a sedative if used on larger
animals.

Only 2 states have approved nitrogen as an execution method: Mississippi and
Oklahoma. It has never been administered or tested as a method of execution. 4
states - Arizona, Missouri, California and Wyoming - allow for death by gas
chamber, but those 4 states use cyanide gas. The last cyanide gas execution was
in 1999.

It is unknown is if the state would use a gas mask or a gas chamber to
administer the nitrogen. Nitrogen is viewed as a more humane alternative
because there is no electrocution, bullet or deadly drug involved, but
opponents say the bill allows for human experimentation due to the lack of
testing of nitrogen as an agent of death.

"The (method) that has been passed has not been tested . . . we don't know what
it's gong to cost us," said Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, before it was
passed by the Senate.

Pittman said another benefit of nitrogen would be its availability.

Only a handful of members of the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of
the bill, but none opposed.

(source: Montgomery Advertiser)

*****************

A quick death in Alabama


Alabama recently took a small but important step forward in reforming its
criminal justice system when the legislature voted to eliminate judicial
override in capital cases last month, but all of that progress could come to a
screeching halt if the "Fair Justice Act" is allowed to pass. The deceitfully
named bill (it is neither fair nor just) would shorten the time for appeals and
reduce already inadequate resources that death row prisoners have when
appealing their convictions. Alabama has clearly put its head in the sand and
is ignoring its own disgraceful experience with wrongful convictions and the
death penalty, as well as current recommendations from other states.

The Act, also known as SB 187, creates a unitary appeals process, which means
that a capital defendant would pursue a direct appeal and post-conviction
litigation simultaneously. It also imposes deadlines on filing the 2 separate
processes, and additionally imposes deadlines for judges to rule on
post-conviction litigation. Fast-tracking capital cases right to the execution
chamber may be appealing to some, but these timelines ignore the purpose of the
separate processes, the realities of capital litigation, and the risk these
changes would pose to innocent defendants.

SB 187 has many flaws and the experiences of Colorado and Oklahoma highlight
some of the worst. A unitary appeals system requires two attorneys to be
appointed simultaneously for a single capital defendant. Both attorneys will
require access to the defendant and access to copies of trial files and the
record, which can be lengthy and expensive to procure. This is where wasted
resources come into play. In a consecutive appeals process, attorneys often
pass along the compiled files to the next attorney in line - here there will be
2 copies of everything, and who pays for that? The people of Alabama.

In a recent op-ed, Attorney General Steven Marshall argues that Alabama needs
the Fair Justice Act, falsely stating that Anthony Ray Hinton, recently freed
after spending 30 years on death row, would actually have been freed sooner
under this Act.

Mr. Hinton has written an opinion piece too, noting that under the Fair Justice
Act he likely would have been executed for crime he didn't commit. He writes:
"We do need significant reforms in Alabama but the legislation pending before
the State House of Representatives is not the right way to proceed and would
almost certainly have gotten me killed." Hinton is 1 of 6 men who were
wrongfully sentenced to death in the state since 1976.

Hinton, who has more moral authority on this subject than anyone in Alabama,
stresses: "Executions are carried out in the name of the people of Alabama and
we should all be concerned if we make our system less reliable and the
execution of innocent people more likely."

If Alabama lawmakers are genuinely interested in fair justice, they would not
ignore the numerous reforms recommended in the 294-page report recently issued
by the bipartisan Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission. And they certainly
should be interested in fully funding a statewide public defender system with
qualified counsel.

Because of the problems created by Oklahoma's unitary appeals process - similar
to that proposed in SB 187 - the Oklahoma Commission is recommending reverting
back to a system where direct appeal and post-conviction processes would
proceed consecutively - a system Alabama already has in place.

Colorado, which 2 decades ago adopted a unitary process much like the one set
out in SB 187, learned a similar lesson. Now, even the original supporter of
the law, former Colorado state representative Jeanne Adkins, admits that it has
failed.

Last week, in stunted debate before the Alabama House Judiciary Committee, this
relevant and compelling evidence about the failure of a unitary appeals process
- as experienced by other states - was ignored and this morally objectionable
legislation advanced.

If this Act passes, it will put innocent men like Anthony Ray Hinton at risk
and it will move Alabama backwards and undermine much of the progress that has
been made. Hopefully, reasonable lawmakers in the House will take a closer look
and recognize that this "Fair Justice Act" is neither of those things and vote
no.

(source: opinion; Ronald Sullivan Jr. is a professor at the Harvard Law School,
where he serves as the Director of the Criminal Justice Institute----
Montgomery Advertiser)






OHIO:

New judge, jury to decide convicted serial killer's fate


A new jury in August will begin deciding whether to recommend the death
sentence for a convicted serial killer.

That timetable was outlined Wednesday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court,
where Anthony Kirkland appeared with his attorneys.

Kirkland, 48, was sentenced to death in 2010, but last year the Ohio Supreme
Court ordered a new mitigation and sentencing hearing. In all, Kirkland has
been convicted of killing 5 women and girls and burning their bodies.

He told detectives he burned the bodies of his victims because "fire purifies,"
court documents say.

Four of the killings happened between 2006 and 2009. He also killed a woman in
1987 - for spurning his sexual advances, prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty
and served 16 years in prison.

A jury will be selected for the resentencing. The hearing, initially scheduled
for this month, is now set to begin Aug. 21 before Judge Patrick Dinkelacker,
who will ultimately decide whether to impose a death sentence. The previous
judge recused himself from the case.

Among the challenges to Kirkland's death sentence was that prosecutors, in
arguments during the trial's penalty phase, made numerous statements to the
jury that were improper.

In 2014, the Ohio Supreme Court found that the prosecution's statements "were
improper and substantially prejudicial." But the court conducted its own
evaluation and determined that Kirkland deserved the death penalty.

After a 2016 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which said a death sentence must
be based on a jury's verdict - not a judge's findings - the Ohio Supreme Court
ordered the resentencing.

Kirkland was found guilty in 2010 of killing Casonya "Sharee" Crawford, 14, and
Esme Kenney, 13. Before the trial began, he pleaded guilty in the deaths of
Kimya Rolison, 25, and Mary Jo Newton, 45.

Sharee was killed in May 2006 while walking home from a friend's house. A month
later, the burned remains of Newton's body were found in Avondale. In 2008,
Rolison's body was discovered. She had been stabbed and burned.

Kirkland was caught on March 7, 2009, the same day he killed Esme as she jogged
around the reservoir in Spring Grove Village. He choked her to death with a
rag, court documents say, then set her body on fire.

During the penalty phase of Kirkland's trial, prosecutors told jurors that
Kirkland already was going to prison for the rest of his life for killing
Rolison and Newton.

"So I guess Casonya and Esme are just freebies for him," a prosecutor told
jurors, according to an Ohio Supreme Court decision.

The high court said those statements were improper. It said a prosecutor can't
argue that "a sentence less than death is meaningless and would not hold the
defendant accountable for a victim???s death when he is already serving a life
sentence."

The court also found that prosecutors improperly talked about what the victims
might have felt and also referenced facts that were not presented during the
trial.

(source: cincinnati.com)

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