Friday, August 17, 2001

Byrd called a 'brutish thug'

Prosecutor files arguments against clemency in slaying

By Spencer Hunt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLUMBUS — Condemned killer John W. Byrd Jr. is an unremorseful “brutish thug” who hopes the lies of a fellow inmate will save him from his Sept. 12 execution.

        That's what Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen has to say about Mr. Byrd's plea for clemency from Gov. Bob Taft. Assistant prosecutors filed written arguments opposing clemency with the Ohio Parole Board Thursday evening.

        Mr. Byrd, convicted in 1983 for stabbing Colerain Township convenience store clerk Monte Tewksbury, is guilty of robbery, not murder, his attorneys say. The clemency petition hinges on sworn statements from accomplice John Brewer, who claims he is the man who held the knife.

        Mr. Allen calls the affidavits unbelievable. Much of his 22-page argument opposing clemency attempts to show parole board members why.

        “The fact is that (Mr.) Byrd is willing to place the blame anywhere but where it belongs,” the prosecutor writes. “He displays not one shred of remorse or repentance for his brutal act.”

        The 12-member parole board will listen to oral arguments in the case Monday morning. Where Mr. Byrd is concerned, the board will urge either execution or a reduced life imprisonment sentence to Mr. Taft.

        David Bodiker, the Ohio Public Defender, said Mr. Allen is misusing old records to paint an ugly portrait of Mr. Byrd. He said the “brutish” image Mr. Allen presents doesn't exist today.

        “I sat and watched him all day today,” Mr. Bodiker said. “I was tremendously impressed with his compassion.”

        Prosecutors insist their description is accurate. The written arguments include excerpts of threatening letters they say Mr. Byrd wrote in the 1980s while on death row, including one to Mr. Tewksbury's widow, Sharon Tewksbury.

        The document also includes written statements from Mr. Brewer and from getaway driver William “Danny” Woodall that describe Mr. Byrd as the killer.

        Also included is a letter Mr. Byrd wrote Mr. Brewer in 1986. Prosecutors say it shows how Mr. Byrd is willing to do anything he can to avoid punishment for his crime.

        “I wont lie to you Johnny I love yo like my brother, but our life's are (expletive) forever man. So we half to make opportunities to try and be free,” Mr. Byrd wrote. “We fight anybody that we can bro. We'll get our freedom its just going to take time.”


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