Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Ohio asks for execution date

Byrd's innocence appeal may be last

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Attorney General Betty Montgomery on Tuesday asked the Ohio Supreme Court to set an execution date for convicted killer John W. Byrd Jr.

        Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to reconsider Mr. Byrd's final guaranteed appeal.

        Ms. Montgomery also asked the state Supreme Court to reject Mr. Byrd's claim that he is innocent of the 1983 slaying.

        Mr. Byrd has asked the court to stop his execution because an accomplice, John Brewer, admitted in two affidavits to stabbing Monte Tewksbury, a 40-year-old clerk at a suburban Cincinnati convenience store.

        Mr. Byrd, 37, is one of two death row inmates expected to be executed this year. The execution of Jay Scott, convicted of killing a Cleveland delicatessen owner in 1983, is scheduled for April 17.

        Joe Case, Ms. Montgomery's spokesman, said the state is confident the justices will find no merit in Mr. Byrd's innocence claim and will set an execution date.

        Greg Meyers, chief counsel of the death penalty division of the Ohio Public Defender's Office, acknowledged that Mr. Byrd faces an uphill battle this late in the process. But, he said, that is true with every appeal of a conviction that carries the death penalty.

        Ohio last executed a prisoner in February 1999, when Wilford Berry was put to death by lethal injection. Mr. Berry had dropped his remaining appeals.


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