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September 27, 2011

Following Ohio Parole Board's recommendation, Gov Kasich commutes another murderer's death sentence

As detailed in this Columbus Dispatch article, which is headlined "Kasich spares killer's life; Governor cites abusive childhood in decision to alter death sentence," the Governor of the state of Ohio is making modern history through regular use of his clemency powers to spare the lives of condemned murderers. Here are the details of the latest notable act of clemency by Republican Governor John Kasich:

Convicted killer Joseph Murphy has a list of people to thank for sparing his life — Gov. John Kasich, the Ohio Parole Board, his public-defender attorneys. But perhaps more than anyone else, Murphy may owe his life to Ohio Supreme Court Judge Thomas J. Moyer, whose words played a pivotal role — even though he died 17 months ago.

Yesterday, Kasich commuted Murphy’s death sentence to life without the possibility of parole. Murphy, 46, was to have been executed on Oct. 18 for the 1987 murder of Ruth Predmore, a 72-year-old widow from Marion, Ohio. The governor concurred with an 8-0 parole-board recommendation that Murphy should not be executed, largely because of his abused, neglected childhood growing up in Ohio and West Virginia.

Moyer, a Republican, was the longest-serving state chief justice in the U.S. at the time of his death on April 2, 2010. He was a conservative jurist not easily swayed to support inmate arguments in death-penalty cases, his colleague, former Justice Herbert Brown, recalled at a clemency hearing two weeks ago.

That made Moyer’s dissent even more striking in a 4-3 Ohio Supreme Court decision in 1992 supporting Murphy’s death sentence. “In all of the death penalty cases I have reviewed, I know of no other case in which the defendant, clearly guilty of the crime as the defendant is here, was as destined for disaster as was Joseph Murphy as a direct result of the conditions to which he was exposed by his family,” Moyer wrote in opposing death for Murphy.

Murphy’s attorneys highlighted the late chief justice’s comments in their presentation to the parole board; the board echoed the quote in its favorable recommendation to the governor; and Kasich repeated Moyer’s words in his clemency decision.

Calling Predmore’s murder “heinous and disturbing,” Kasich said that despite a traumatic childhood, Murphy deserves severe punishment. But the governor said he agreed that considering Murphy’s “brutally abusive upbringing and the relatively young age at which he committed this terrible crime, the death penalty is not appropriate in this case.  Thus, I have commuted his sentence to life in prison with no chance for parole. I pray for peace for all who have been impacted by this crime.”...

It was the second time this year that Kasich commuted a killer’s death sentence. In June, he granted clemency to Shawn Hawkins, 42, of Cincinnati, because the details of his role in a drug-related double slaying were “frustratingly unclear.”  Like Murphy, Hawkins’ sentence was commuted to life without parole.

Not only has Governor Kasich recently commuted two death sentences, he also granted clemency earlier this month to Kelley Williams-Bolar, the Akron mom who fraudulently enrolled her kids in a different school district (basics here).  Cheers to Governor Kasich and his staff for understanding the importance and potency of his clemency authority, and jeers to the media and the usual criminal justice pundits if they fail to recognize and laud Ohio's Governor for his now already impressive clemency record.

I am not sure whether to be incredibly proud or deeply troubled that Ohio's Governor Kasich has now in the last three months made more profound and effective use of his state clemency authority in just the last three months than US President Barack Obama has in over the last three years.  I am sure that this latest capital commutation, and the broader story of Governors making good use of clemency powers, merits a lot more attention than it is likely to receive from either the media of the punditry.

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September 27, 2011 at 10:08 AM | Permalink


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Posted by: federalist | Sep 27, 2011 11:24:21 AM

So, will Gov. Kasich commute the sentences of all death-row inmates who had lousy childhoods? If so, there won't be many people left on death row.

Also, would it not be possible to consider clemency much earlier in the process, so that such a lot of money and resources won't be wasted on something that won't even take place?

Posted by: Alpino | Sep 27, 2011 1:07:08 PM

federalist and Alpino, I agree that this mercy crap has gotten out of hand. All 8 members of Ohio's parole board who voted for this are soft on crime and hacks--Kasich is a hack. "Mercy is for the weak" Nietsche. "Mercy is for the untermensch" Hitler. "Mercy--no such word in Russian" Stalin. "Mercy, what's that?" Pol Pot.

Posted by: anon15 | Sep 27, 2011 1:57:11 PM

1987? Really buckeyes? Why in the name of justice???

Okay, then you put him up. Since you want to show some compassion, how about you , Governor, establish a special fund to pay for murderer Murphy's life supports, call it: Buttressing Unrepentant Murderers (BUM).

Don't make my Ohio relatives—and the relatives of Ruth Predmore, sustain him. [Maybe the Innocence Project will contribute (moral) support]. Or have him stay round-robin with Parole
Board members or *anon15.

Is this compassionate conservatism, or straight-out liberalism?

Posted by: adamakis | Sep 27, 2011 2:08:28 PM

It seems that all the inmates presenting clemency petitions have the same family problems growing up. Lately, in Ohio that is the ticket off death row. I knew they could not keep up the pace with Texas. Ohio is getting soft.

Posted by: DaveP | Sep 27, 2011 3:45:57 PM

I agree with federalist that the Kasich's decision to commute the death penalty to life in prison without parole is "pathetic." Texas gov. Perry would never do this. Anon 15 is right. Mercy is for the weak, for women, for the disabled. Mercy is not in the volcabulary of a true Texan.

Posted by: bubba from texas | Sep 27, 2011 3:58:15 PM

Easy decisions for Kasich so far. None of them have really been that controversial or unpopular - so far. No big deal. I'd be surprised to see him actually make such a decision when real political fallout would follow. As it is, he's just positioning himself as "balanced" with the general (generally clueless) Ohio public who didn't much like SB5.

He's also getting the Teflon applied in advance for when he kills the next guy.

Posted by: anon | Sep 27, 2011 4:12:23 PM

Prior posters...Christians all.

Posted by: Marcus Aurelius | Sep 27, 2011 4:43:26 PM

bubba from Texas --

Authentic mercy is one of the cardinal virtues of humanity. "Mercy" as code for "no accountability in these parts" is a sham.

I don't know Gov. Kasich, so I have no idea which version was in his mind.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 27, 2011 4:47:58 PM

"Christians all."

It's a riot how those who, in every other context, insist on the strict separation of church and state, shove (their version of) Christianity in the faces of those who, as a matter of secular law, support the DP.

I'd call it hypocrisy, but it's well beyond that.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 27, 2011 9:13:48 PM

Whatever your supreme intelligence says Bill.

Posted by: albeed | Sep 28, 2011 12:36:38 AM

albeed --

I'd give you the response you occasionally demand, if there were anything to respond to.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 28, 2011 10:04:23 AM

'I'd call it hypocrisy, but it's well beyond that.'

Bless ye, for you know not what ye do.

Posted by: Marcus Aurelius | Sep 28, 2011 5:11:26 PM


Thank You!

Posted by: albeed | Sep 29, 2011 12:16:33 AM

Marcus Aurelius --

"Bless ye, for you know not what ye do."

I didn't previously know you were Christ, but, hey, whatever you say.

P.S. Do ya think maybe Timmy McVeigh knew what HE did? Or do you not give a hoot?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 29, 2011 6:18:11 PM

'I didn't previously know you were Christ'

I'm not, but might by some of the faithful, still be considered one of his 'flock'.

'Do ya think maybe Timmy McVeigh knew what HE did? Or do you not give a hoot?'

It's moot at this point and not necessarily relevant so I'd probably have to say I don't give a hoot but thanks for asking.

Posted by: Marcus Aurelius | Sep 29, 2011 8:02:32 PM

Marcus Aurelius --

I asked, "Do ya think maybe Timmy McVeigh knew what HE did? Or do you not give a hoot?"

You answered, "...I'd probably have to say I don't give a hoot but thanks for asking."

I appreciate your honesty in saying you don't give a hoot about McVeigh. A large number of abolitionists force themselves to at least mumble something about deep compassion for the victims, blah, blah, blah, but you take a different path and lay it out for what it is.

I am happy to let your words speak for themselves.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 30, 2011 10:45:09 PM

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