Saturday, January 12, 2002

Byrd's execution date set

Convicted killer faces lethal injection on Feb. 19

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The state of Ohio will try again Feb. 19 to execute John W. Byrd. The Ohio Supreme Court set the new execution date Friday, just four days after a federal appeals court rejected Mr. Byrd's latest request for a delay.

        The convicted killer, who came within days of execution in September, now has exhausted nearly all his appeals.

        He is expected to ask the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution, but the high court rarely intervenes in death-penalty cases.

        “It is clear the issues have been reviewed by the courts,” said Joe Case, spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery. “There is not a question of guilt in this case.”

        Mr. Byrd was sentenced to death for the 1983 robbery and stabbing death of Colerain Town ship convenience-store clerk Monte Tewksbury.

        His public defenders have argued for months that an accomplice, John Eastle Brewer, killed Mr. Tewksbury. Mr. Brewer, who is serving a life sentence for his role in the robbery, has made sworn statements claiming he is the killer.

        Prosecutors dismiss his claims, saying Mr. Brewer knows he cannot be tried again for murder and is just attempting to help Mr. Byrd's cause.

        State appeals courts, a federal magistrate and the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals all have dismissed Mr. Brewer's claims as unbelievable.

        Mr. Brewer's claims did, however, stir enough legal debate to delay Mr. Byrd's execution for several months last year. Now, prosecutors say, Mr. Byrd is running out of time.

        “I can't conceive of any credible argument the public defender could make at this point,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said. Mr. Byrd's public defenders could not be reached for comment Friday.

        Mr. Tewksbury's widow, Sharon, said she will be relieved when the case is finally over. She said she will not attend the execution and “will not celebrate the death of John Byrd.”

        “I can't think about John Byrd's death,” Mrs. Tewksbury said. “What I think is that the justice we've been looking for may finally happen.”

        Mr. Byrd had asked to be executed in Ohio's electric chair. He said he rejected lethal injection because he wanted to make a point about what he considered the barbarity of the death penalty.

        But late last year, Gov. Bob Taft signed a law banning the electric chair. Lethal injection now is the only means of execution in Ohio.


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