« Somali pirate takes a federal plea to hijacking charge to limit sentencing exposure | Main | Should sentencing fans be excited about voters "throwing the bums out" of DC? »

May 18, 2010

Split Ohio parole board recommends clemency for next murderer in line for Ohio death chamber

As detailed in this local article, the "Ohio Parole Board said today that a Cincinnati man who killed his long-time girlfriend in an alcohol-induced rage should not be executed." Here are the details:

By a 4-3 vote, the board recommended to Gov. Ted Strickland that he should grant clemency for Richard Nields, who turns 60 on Wednesday.  Nields is scheduled to be lethally injected on June 10 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.

The four members of the board who voted to recommended clemency said they were concerned about faulty medical evidence in the case and also about judicial opinions indicating the Nields may not deserve the death penalty.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the facts in the case "just barely get Nields over the death threshold."  Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul E. Pfeifer wrote a strong dissenting opinion when the case was decided in 2002.

"The type of crime Nields did is not the type of crime the General Assembly did contemplate or should have contemplated as a death penalty offense...  It is about alcoholism, rage and rejection and about Nields' inability to cope with any of them.  It is a crime of passion imbued with pathos and reeking of alcohol."

Parole board members who said Nields should be denied clemency cited his history of abuse against women, the fact robbery was part of the crime, and that Nields has not been "forthcoming about details of the offense and his prior history of violence."

Strickland will make the final life-or-death decision in Nields case.

As detailed in this press report, the local prosecutor who helped put Nields on Ohio's death row is not too pleased with the Ohio Parole Board's recommendation:

Prosecutor Deters commented, "The implication of the Parole Board's opinion is that a deliberate murder during an aggravated robbery does not merit the death penalty.  This office rejects that notion and suggests that the Parole Board is bound by Ohio law in this regard. They are not free to disregard this judgment of the Ohio legislature as to what crimes are death eligible.  In view of the lack of mitigation presented, their decision is unfathomable.

For this board, after thirteen years, to second guess jurors and numerous judges is both frustrating and disturbing.  I just hope that Governor Strickland will reject this recommendation for clemency and let justice be carried out."

Notably, last year Governor Strickland (as urged by Ohio AG Richard Cordray) did reject a Parole Board recommendation for clemency for another condemned murderer.  I have an inkling that Governor Strickland might follow the same course again, but only time will tell.

May 18, 2010 at 09:36 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e20133edec9611970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Split Ohio parole board recommends clemency for next murderer in line for Ohio death chamber :

Comments

Assuming no replacements, this parole board is comprised of at least five idiots. The five that recommended that Jason Getsy's life be spared because a co-conspirator didn't get death is one of those spectacularly stupid arguments that only a liberal judge or a mealy-mouth twit without moral courage could buy. Apparently, one learned from his mistake.

Posted by: federalist | May 19, 2010 12:12:21 AM

"Assuming no replacements, this parole board is comprised of at least five idiots. The five that recommended that Jason Getsy's life be spared because a co-conspirator didn't get death is one of those spectacularly stupid arguments that only a liberal judge or a mealy-mouth twit without moral courage could buy. Apparently, one learned from his mistake."

Why are you so full of hate?

Posted by: JC | May 19, 2010 1:15:16 AM

JC, it's not hate, but contempt.

Posted by: federalist | May 19, 2010 7:55:27 AM

I think it's safe to say that Strickland will not follow the recommendation. His approval ratings are in the toilet, and giving clemency to an unsympathetic killer--where guilt does not seem to be in question--would only make things worse.

Posted by: Res ipsa | May 19, 2010 11:40:46 AM

Why do I get the feeling federalist equates mercy with stupid, liberal, mealy-mouth cowardice?

Of course prosecutor Deter is incensed. If the board's majority prevails with the governor, it might raise questions about why Deter strained the facts to make it a capital case in the first place.

Aggravated robbery, Jesus! Apparently Nields' longtime girlfriend dumped him and he killed her in a drunken rage. While on death row he described the victim in a remorseful statement to a journalist as his best friend.

It was a crime of passion, not a consequence of a robbery or getaway as Ohio's AR code seems to require. The woman was already dead when the theft took place as an apparent afterthought.

If for no other reason, the death penalty should be suspended until we find a better way to temper the ambition, intransigence, creative impulses and competitive zeal of prosecutors like Deter.

Sure, homicidal alcoholics like Nields belong in prison, yet he's hardly the worst of the worst.

But you can probably relax, federalist. Strickland has rejected 14 of 15 clemency requests, and apparently he values the opinion of a fellow pol (the Ohio AG) more than the parole board's. So Nields is as good as dead.

Posted by: John K | May 19, 2010 11:59:03 AM

Posted by: John K | May 19, 2010 11:59:03 AM


Given that I advocate execution for offenders far less culpable than this particular convict why would I think drunken passion should be worthy of mitigating a death sentence?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 19, 2010 12:34:53 PM

"JC, it's not hate, but contempt."

One tends to lead to the other, and either one of them can eventually lead you to cardiac arrest.

Posted by: JC | May 19, 2010 3:06:05 PM

"Given that I advocate execution for offenders far less culpable than this particular convict why would I think drunken passion should be worthy of mitigating a death sentence?"

I can't imagine that you would, given that you have made it very clear that you want to expand eligibility for the death penalty back to medieval standards.

Posted by: JC | May 19, 2010 3:11:08 PM

Posted by: JC | May 19, 2010 3:11:08 PM

Thank you, glad to know that I've been communicating my position clearly.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 19, 2010 3:23:37 PM

Why would you want to do such a thing, Soronel? I've never caught that part.

Posted by: JC | May 19, 2010 6:11:59 PM

@JC
Your comment about medieval standards makes no sense unless you can point to a commet where he advocated executing thieves, heretics or homosexuals.

Posted by: MikeinCT | May 19, 2010 6:25:40 PM

@John K
A drunken rage where he was so intoxicated that he is less responsible for his actions? How do you account for being lucid enough to steal money, a bank card and a car, flee the scene and lie to police?

Posted by: MikeinCT | May 19, 2010 6:28:47 PM

"@JC
Your comment about medieval standards makes no sense unless you can point to a commet where he advocated executing thieves, heretics or homosexuals."

He's said that he would support the death penalty for interracial marriage if it were still illegal, so I presume he wouldn't have a problem with capital punishment for the things you've mentioned (with the possible exception of heresy). Click here and scroll down

Posted by: JC | May 19, 2010 7:10:55 PM

He's said that he would support the death penalty for interracial marriage if it were still illegal, so I presume he wouldn't have a problem with capital
punishment for the things you've mentioned (with the possible exception of heresy). Click here and scroll down
--

Agreed, the 1st amendment puts execution for heresy beyond the powers of government in the U.S.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 19, 2010 9:49:26 PM

"Why do I get the feeling federalist equates mercy with stupid, liberal, mealy-mouth cowardice?"

Perhaps if you were less interested in caricaturizing me, you wouldn't get that feeling. Mercy is a necessary part of any justice system. The problem I have with the Board is that a majority of it is obviously capable of some pretty fuzzy reasoning. And the idea that capital murderers are entitled to some bit of cosmic fairness as between them is a stunningly bad one. Life isn't fair for the law-abiding, so why in the world should capital murderers get an audience for the "some other guy got a break so I am entitled to one" argument, particularly in a system that requires individualized sentencing.

As for Pfeifer, I suspect that he's engaging in some bit of moral preening. Badmouthing your state because, gee, capital murderers who have had endless appeals are now being executed, is poor form. Second, what planet is he on---does he really expect prosecutors to put an unwritten exception in the statute for robbers who happen to have slept with their victims? One, that's naive, and two he was a legislator--if he wanted the exception in there, he should have put it in there. The bottom line, of course, is that the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, saw fit to make states separate out capital murders from all other murders (a stunning bit of nonsense if you really think about it--hint: no murderer can claim in a vacuum that his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment because of the circumstances of the murder). So an expansive view of whatever statute is passed is certainly warranted.

Posted by: federalist | May 20, 2010 10:09:45 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB