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July 22, 2009

Debate heating up over recommended capital clemency in Ohio

As detailed in this local article, which is headlined "Getsy juror outraged: Upset by parole board decision," there is a brewing debate in Ohio over the state parole board's recommendation of clemency for a killer scheduled to be executed in August.  Here are details:

After he read about it in the newspaper, Jerry Heck said he couldn't keep from driving to the Trumbull County Courthouse on Tuesday from his home in Bristol. ''I was appalled,'' he said of the Ohio Parole Board decision to recommend clemency for death row inmate Jason Getsy.

Heck, 54, is especially familiar with the local murder case since he was one of 12 jurors who heard the facts during his 1996 trial in which Getsy was found guilty. Heck was also among the jurors who recommended Getsy be sentenced to death.

Heck, a mechanic at Denman Tire, drove into town just to sign a petition being circulated by representatives of the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office that asks Gov. Ted Strickland to turn down the parole board recommendation. ''The governor should let the jury do its job. We struggled over that case. There was crying and hugging. I remember,'' Heck said. ''I feel strongly about this.''... ''Just because other people weren't given the death penalty isn't enough. The other young men took themselves out of the crime scene. None of them pulled the trigger. His (Getsy's) only remorse was that he got caught,'' Heck said....

Getsy was convicted of the 1995 aggravated murder in the slaying of Ann Serafino, 66, of Hubbard, and of the attempted murder of her son, Chuck. Prosecutors said John Santine offered Getsy and two others $5,000 to kill Charles Serafino, a business rival, and any witnesses because of a dispute over Serafino's landscaping business. Ann Serafino was killed because she was at home when the gunmen attacked, authorities said....

Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins, who penned his own protest letter to Gov. Ted Strickland within an hour after hearing to the decision Friday, called the decision a dangerous precedent that could lead to other pared-down sentences or early parole in noncapital murder cases.

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July 22, 2009 at 11:27 AM | Permalink


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What a joke. This decision, which is based on squeamishness and a fetish for so-called rights, is laughable. First of all, murderers have zero claim to some sort of cosmic fairness as between co-defendants. They get a chance to present their case to a jury on the public dime and get to regale the jury with how mommy and daddy didn't give them enough love. That's more than enough process. Second of all, if one thinks about this standard, it's easy to see that lone murderers get "screwed". When murderers act in concert, they are more dangerous, but with this standard, each murderer is entitled to the mercy (misplaced or otherwise) of each of his co-defendants--how is that not arbitrary--a built-in structural advantage to killers who act in concert.

"In imposing a death sentence, it is imperative that we have consistency and similar penalties imposed upon similarly situated co-defendants." Oh yeah? Says who? Five squeamish twits who are more concerned with moral preening than justice.

Getsy needs to be put down. Why spend all the money getting to the death sentence and then all the money to keep him in jail for life?

Posted by: federalist | Jul 22, 2009 2:32:00 PM

Why spend all the money getting to the death sentence and then all the money to keep him in jail for life?

Of course this argument could be used to oppose any clemency.

Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins [c]alled the decision a dangerous precedent that could lead to other pared-down sentences or early parole in noncapital murder cases.

Clemency and mercy have long been part of any legitimate justice system. That a prosecutor, who plays a different role in the system then the parole board or governor, should consider "other pared-down sentences" or early parole in non-capital murder cases to be inherently dangerous, is just another example ad nauseum demonstrating the need for a total overhaul of how prosecutors should be trained. Prosecutors should be pursuing justice, not unmitigated vengeance. Any proper acknowledgement of that role would appreciate a system in which the harsh excesses of the law do get mitigated from time to time by a fresh set of eyes.

And Professor Berman,

I dare say that an exmaple of a prosecutor not pursuing justice is Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel. While the law does seem to be on her side that juror affidavites can't be used to grant a new trial, AFAIK the district court's grant is not precedential of a new trial to Widmer so there's no reason appealing the ruling is necessary for the future. If the interests of justice require a new trial, Prosecutor Hutzel should just let the ruling stand.

Posted by: Southern Ohio | Jul 23, 2009 10:03:56 AM

The argument could--but so what? We hear all the time from the anti crowd about costs. I thought I'd throw it back.

The mercy/clemency point really isn't germane. No one is disputing that mercy doesn't have a role. The issue is whether someone is automatically entitled to mercy shown to a co-defendant. And your response doesn't deal at all with that point.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 23, 2009 11:51:48 AM

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