Friday, June 15, 2001

Killer Scott is executed by injection

This time, no third reprieve

By Spencer Hunt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LUCASVILLE, Ohio — Jay D. Scott, a mentally ill death row inmate who lived past two postponed executions, died by lethal injection at the death house at Lucasville prison Thursday night.

        Convicted and condemned for the 1983 shooting death of elderly Cleveland delicatessen owner Vinnie Prince, Mr. Scott, 48, didn't apologize or make a final statement. He instead said goodbye to his family, some of whom watched as the state carried out its death sentence.

        “Spook, George, Randy, I love you all,” he reportedly said. “Tell my family and friends I send my love. Don't worry. Tell them I'm all right.”

[photo] John Pyle, an attorney who tried to keep Jay D. Scott from being executed, with death penalty protester Kathy Soltis of Cleveland, earlier Thursday.
(Associated Press photo)
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        Mr. Scott was the first person executed against his will in Ohio since 1963. The state executed Wilford Berry in 1999 after he waived his appeals and volunteered for death.

        Media witnesses said Mr. Scott appeared calm and raised his head several times - possibly to look for family members. He said a few things to them that went unheard and even chuckled briefly before he was asked for his final words.

        “He appeared very calm. He was not struggling at all that we could see,” said Paul Kostyu, a Copley Newspapers reporter. “His eyes rolled back in his head slightly before he closed them.”

        Prison officials pronounced the time of death as 9:08 p.m.

        The death ends 17 years Mr. Scott spent fighting his death sentence in state and federal courts. Even after his regular appeals had expired, his attorneys won a new series of court hearings to debate the appropriateness of executing insane criminals.

        Mr. Scott was a diagnosed schizophrenic; his attorneys argued it was morally wrong to put him to death, winning unprecedented hearings in four courts and stopping his execution twice.

        The Ohio Supreme Court stopped his April 17 execution with less than an hour to go. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals stepped in May 15 when Mr. Scott had injection shunts in his arms and only 10 minutes left to live.

        Though the issue of Mr. Scott's sanity was enough to delay his death, it never stopped it. Every court that reconsidered his case declared Mr. Scott competent to be executed, despite his mental illness.

        The Ohio Supreme Court, and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court, upheld a state law that allows executions as long as the condemned prisoner understands he will die as punishment for crimes he committed.

        Though state officials described him as lucid and alert, Mr. Scott's attorneys argued their client often suffered episodes in which he lost touch with reality. In fact, family members who visited with Mr. Scott reported some sort of mental lapse Thursday.

        Details on what happened were unavailable. Attorney Timothy F. Sweeney said he and fellow attorney John Pyle decided any new appeal based on that lapse would not win over a judge.

        “We were hopeful we could spare his life,” Mr. Sweeney said. “We were unable to get the result we wanted.”

        Prisons spokesman Joe Andrews said a team of guards watching Mr. Scott, and two prison-employed mental health professionals who spoke with him, reported no problems.

        “He seemed to be oriented. He knew what was going on,” Mr. Andrews said. “They said he seemed resigned to that and he had made his peace with God.”

        The U.S. Supreme Court denied Mr. Scott's final two appeals Wednesday night. Gov. Bob Taft denied several clemency requests. He didn't change his mind.

        Mr. Scott spent his last day surrounded by his siblings, George Scott, Charles Scott, Diane Scott-Palmer and Alexander Parra, a half-brother. His son, Antwine Taylor, also visited with him, at first together in one room and later in informal talks through a small window in his death house cell door.

        His last meal, fried fish, hot sauce and a Pepsi, was the same meal he'd selected April 17. Mr. Andrews said Mr. Scott had eaten most of it before 3 p.m.

        Aside from a few remarks from Mr. Andrews and official witnesses, few other voices remarked upon his death. Family members continued to shun the media and state officials were never able to locate a relative of Ms. Prince or Mr. Scott's second victim, security guard Alexander Ralph Jones.

        Mr. Scott was convicted in a second trial for killing Mr. Jones while trying to steal his gun. Though a court awarded a second death sentence, it was later overturned after a federal court decided jurors were improperly swayed by news stories concerning his first trial.

        A small group of death penalty protesters held a vigil outside the prison, hoping for a third delay.

        An organizer of the protest, Jana Schroeder, said the execution shows Ohio is moving away from the growing number of other nations that condemn the death penalty.

        “We stand opposed,” Ms. Schroeder said. “Ohio has unfortunately chosen a path of death over life.”

        Attorney General Betty Montgomery released a written statement after learning Mr. Scott had died.

        “The judicial process has worked, however slowly,” she said. “Vinnie Prince and Alexander Jones have now received some measure of justice.”


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