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August 19, 2010

Unanimous rejection of clemency bid for Ohio death row inmate claiming innocence

This local story, which is headlined "Parole Board recommends execution for Bucyrus killer," reports on the latest developing in a high-profile capital case in Ohio.  Here are the basics: 

A panel recommended today that Gov. Ted Strickland not spare the life of a man convicted of murdering three people in Bucyrus in 1994 in a case that has drawn national attention. In a unanimous vote, the Ohio Parole Board said the state should proceed with plans to execute Kevin Keith, now 46, on Sept. 15.

Keith has been on death row for the triple murder of family members of a drug informant who had told police about his involvement in cocaine trafficking in Crawford County. Strickland has discretion on whether to follow the Parole Board's recommendation or ignore it. The governor has publicly called Keith's case "troubling."

Keith's defense has attracted national attention, with his supporters saying the state is about to execute an innocent man. The head of the national Innocence Project attended a 12-hour Parole Board hearing on Keith's case last week; former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro also has raised doubts about Keith's guilt.

Keith has maintained that he was not the gunman on a snowy February night in Bucyrus when 24-year-old Marichell Chatman; her 4-year-old daughter, Marchae; and the girl's 39-year-old aunt, Linda Chatman, were killed in a melee of gunfire that wounded three others. Marichell Chatman was the sister of a confidential police informant who had tipped off authorities about a cocaine-trafficking ring in which Keith was a leader.

Keith's attorneys told the Parole Board last week that evidence points to another killer, Rodney Melton. Now 54, Melton had been indicted on a felony drug-trafficking charge after a tipster alerted police about his alleged involvement in a series of pharmacy robberies and drug sales. The indictment was later dismissed. Melton, who had an extensive criminal history, was known to use a face mask similar to one seen on the Bucyrus gunman.

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Comments

I wonder if Mr. Petro and all the others who are campaigning for Keith knew all the facts of the case before they jumped on board with "grave concerns". A state judge and the 8 parole board members have all denied the claims unanimously in the past few weeks. It is amazing how many "innocent" people there are on death row. Keith, Mumia Jamal, Troy Davis, Carlton Gary, William Ziegler, Paul Scott, Damien Echols, Kevin Cooper and so on.

Posted by: DaveP | Aug 19, 2010 2:34:50 PM

I really wish that they would drop the 'no court has heard these claims' line. The Supreme Court of Ohio did just that early this year and found them as unconvincing as everyone else.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Aug 19, 2010 4:26:44 PM

The politics of the situation are interesting. With a near neck-and-neck election, Governor Strickland is unlikely to risk any potential controversy -- read votes -- by granting clemency. The parole board provided him the perfect political excuse to allow the execution to proceed. That is, unless the Innocence Project is incapable of drawing more attention to the issue and, more importantly, winning the sympathy of liberal constituencies.

Similarly, as a former Republican Attorney General, you have to wonder if Petro's public doubts are motivated by the actual merits of the situation or politically intended to stir the pot. If I was rooting for Kasich in November, I would want to make the Democratic Governor squirm (publicly) as much as possible in deciding if this man should die.

You couldn't think of a more non-descript comment from Strickland than "troubling." It seems the Governor wants to keep his options open... for good reason.

Posted by: Dapper | Aug 19, 2010 7:20:51 PM

Petro obviously hasnt looked into this case. Keith did it. Where'd the bullet casing come from?

http://www.drc.ohio.gov/Public/clemency_keithaug2010.pdf

Posted by: federalist | Aug 21, 2010 4:00:25 PM

I just love it when people assume just because a celebrity or former attorney general join the bandwagon to get someone off death row, the inmate is innocent. I think Ed Asner signed on for Kevin Cooper in CA and someone asked him some specific questions about the case and he did not know anything about it.

Posted by: DaveP | Aug 22, 2010 8:02:36 AM

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