Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Scott may again face death

Supreme Court: Delayed executions are not form of torture

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS - Condemned killer Jay D. Scott's two close calls with death should not bar him from facing it again, the Ohio Supreme Court decided Tuesday.

        The high court's 6-1 ruling was another setback for attorneys who argued the state's two failed execution attempts traumatized Mr. Scott to a point that executing him would be cruel and unusual punishment.

        As time winds down, it appears only the U.S. Supreme Court stands between Mr. Scott and his execution Thursday night.

        Convicted of killing elderly Cleveland delicatessen owner Vinnie M. Prince in 1983, Mr. Scott has fought his death sentence on grounds that it is morally wrong to execute someone who is insane. Though he is a diagnosed schizophrenic, courts consistently have declared him mentally fit for execution.

        But state and federal courts delayed Mr. Scott's scheduled March 15 and April 17 executions to consider and reconsider his insanity appeal.

        The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its April 17 stay a mere 10 minutes before Mr. Scott was to die at the Lucasville Prison Death House. The prison's execu tion team had already placed the injection shunts in Mr. Scott's arms.

        With the execution back on track, Mr. Scott's legal team argued those two close calls amount to a form of torture.

        John Pyle, one of the attorneys, said he will put that same argument in a new appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

        The nation's highest court is still considering another appeal Mr. Pyle has filed, which asks that Mr. Scott's insanity appeal be reconsidered.

        A spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery said the state is ready to oppose both claims. Joe Case said Mr. Scott's torture claim is nothing new.

        “There is a pretty sound history of courts denying these kinds of appeals,” Mr. Case said.

        Mr. Pyle said no one can predict what the U.S. Supreme Court will do.

        The U.S. Supreme Court has denied Mr. Scott's insanity appeal. His regular appeals exhausted, the courts represent Mr. Scott's last and best hope for stopping Thursday's execution.

        Where the Ohio Supreme Court is concerned, only Justice Paul E. Pfeifer was willing to block that execution.

        In a brief dissent, Justice Pfeifer repeated his concerns that it is wrong to execute someone who is mentally ill.


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