Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Board opens Byrd's hearing

'Interest in case' cited as reason

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — In an unprecedented decision, the Ohio Parole Board will allow reporters into a clemency hearing for convicted murderer John W. Byrd.

        The board's hearing, set for Monday, was supposed to be closed to all but lawyers and witnesses arguing whether Mr. Byrd, 37, should be executed Sept. 12.

        Acting on a request from Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen, the board decided Tuesday to open the hearing.

        Prisons spokeswoman Andrea Dean said the board decided to let reporters into the hearing “because of the interest in this case.”

        “I'd like to thank them for doing this,” Mr. Allen said. “Now the public will be able to find out what happened and what was said.

        Mr. Byrd, of Northside, faces execution for the 1983 stabbing death of Colerain Township convenience store clerk Monte Tewksbury. Barring clemency or a court order, he will become the first of Hamilton County's 48 death row inmates to die.

        In the clemency case, Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker wants Gov. Bob Taft to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment. The parole board will make a recommendation to the governor after the hearing.

        Mr. Bodiker said Mr. Byrd should not be killed because an accomplice to the robbery has confessed to stabbing Mr. Tewksbury.

        Mr. Allen will argue that the confession is unbelievable. Before Tuesday's announcement by the board, he was upset the public wouldn't be able to see, hear or read what was said at the hearing.

        The parole board held closed clemency hearings for death row inmates Jay D. Scott and Wilford Berry. Mr. Scott was executed by lethal injection June 15. Mr. Berry was executed in 1999 after waiving his appeals and volunteering.

        Mr. Bodiker welcomed the media scrutiny. “We'd very much like to have all of this seen and heard,” he said.


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