Friday, August 24, 2001

Parole board rejects clemency


Taft urged to let Byrd be executed

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — The Ohio Parole Board on Thursday told Gov. Bob Taft to deny clemency to death-row inmate John W. Byrd Jr., further dimming his hope to avoid execution Sept. 12.

        Mr. Byrd's attorneys had urged a life sentence for their client, saying an accomplice in a 1983 robbery in Colerain Township was the man who stabbed and killed convenience-store clerk Monte Tewksbury.

Byrd
Byrd
        That argument swayed only one of the board's 11 voting members.

        The other 10 trashed two sworn confessions from prison inmate John Brewer, writing they lack “any credibility whatsoever.” They also dismissed arguments that a jail-house informant lied on the stand to help convict Mr. Byrd.

        “The murder of Mr. Monte Tewksbury was a totally senseless, callous act, committed without any provocation,” the majority wrote.

        The governor will use the board's report to help make his own decision next week.

        The board's decision was the second setback this week for the Ohio Public Defender. On Tuesday the First District Court of Appeals refused to grant a hearing to consider Mr. Brewer's confessions.

        “We had hoped that (the parole board) would realize that there are grave doubts whether they have the right man on death row,” said Gregory Meyers, chief of the public defender's death penalty division.

        Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen sounded confident Mr. Taft would deny clemency.

        “I would think that he would consider this recommendation strongly,” Mr. Allen said.

        Meanwhile, the Ohio Supreme Court stands next in line to hear the case. Mr. Meyers is asking the high court to delay the execution to consider if a trial court should take another look at Mr. Byrd's innocence plea.

        Two Hamilton County courts refused to grant that hearing.

       



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