« Very eager to provide very thorough and fair coverage of prosecutors' views on Smarter Sentencing Act | Main | Super Sunday of highlights from Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform »

February 2, 2014

"Citing Catholic faith, family of victim seeks to keep condemned Cleveland killer from lethal injection"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting recent Cleveland Plain Dealer article highlighting a notable set of voices expressing a faith-based disinterest in completing the next scheduled execution in Ohio.  Here are the details:

Irene Allain and her family want to prevent condemned killer Gregory Lott's execution. And they're relying on their faith to do it. Allain is the daughter of John McGrath, the 82-year-old man Lott is convicted of killing a vicious attack in East Cleveland in July 1986. Nearly 28 years later, Lott is scheduled to die March 19 for the crime.  And Allain and her family are pushing that the sentence be changed from death to life in prison.

"Although it has been difficult for me to come to terms with how my father died, I do not agree with executing Gregory Lott," Allain wrote in an affidavit that Lott's attorneys are using to seek clemency for him. "I am a devout Catholic, as is my family.  I believe that life in prison is a just punishment for Gregory Lott. I believe his death sentence should be commuted to life imprisonment."

As the debate over the death penalty simmers in Ohio, most recently sparked by the drawn-out execution of Dennis McGuire earlier this month, McGrath's family members highlight the issue from a different perspective.  And they aren't alone.  A growing number of families of victims are urging courts to avoid using the death penalty as a punishment.

"There is an automatic assumption that victims' families want the death penalty, but that has been challenged in the past five to 10 years," said Scott Bass, the executive director of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation. "There is a rising number of victims' families who don't want the death penalty. For many, the death penalty adds 20 to 30 years to the trial. It prolongs the agony for families."

But not all families believe that. Take the relatives of Joy Stewart, the pregnant woman who was brutally attacked and killed by McGuire.  Her family, in a statement to reporters at the execution, said they have forgiven McGuire, "but that does not negate the need for him to pay for his actions. It's time -- past time -- for him to pay for what he did to my sister."

In the case of Lott, it is clear that McGrath's family wants him to remain in prison. "I don't want to put my imprimatur on a man's execution,'' said Jack McGrath, a grandson. "Much of this is because of my Roman Catholic faith.  When I first learned of this in 1986, I almost thought of taking matters into my own hands.  But time has healed our wounds. I don't believe in the death penalty because of my faith."...

In a letter to prosecutors before his trial, Lott admitted to the slaying and pleaded for a deal that would spare him the death penalty.  "I am ready and willing to go to court any day or time and take the 30 years," Lott wrote to prosecutors. "I beg that you would let me plead guilty to the murder.  I am very sorry and remorseful for what happened to Mr. McGrath.''

But the deal never came. Months later, a three-judge panel convicted him and him sentenced to die.  Lott's execution date has been pushed back twice after legal challenges, including one that accused Carmen Marino, then an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, of failing to turn over evidence to defense attorneys.  A federal judge in 2007 rejected Lott's appeal.  Following other appeals, he was given a new execution date....

Jack McGrath, the grandson of the man Lott killed, said he has thought a good deal about revenge and spoke with a Catholic priest.  "Twenty-eight years ago, I felt very much like that," he said. "But there comes a point when you say to yourself, 'Can this guy be forgiven?' What has happened has happened. It's not my place to judge."

This story is substantively interesting because it involves family members of a murder victim making a forceful faith-based pitch for clemency. But it is also practically so interesting because it could give Ohio Governor John Kasich a very reasonable basis to grant the condemned murderer here a commutation to LWOP and thereby prevent the next six week being filled with huge legal fights over Ohio's two-drug execution protocol. Of course, those legal fights are inevitable whenever Ohio gets close to another execution, but the Gov and other Ohio officials might find it quite beneficial to have a few more months to gear up for these fights without a March execution date looming.

February 2, 2014 at 09:50 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Citing Catholic faith, family of victim seeks to keep condemned Cleveland killer from lethal injection":


Lott's crime was brutal. LWOP is expensive for older prisoners. Execute him. Save money.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 2, 2014 10:44:59 AM

If the victims family don't want it, what does the victim advocates here say about the death penalty? The family and loved ones of the victim have from time to time opposed the death penalty. One case in NYC involved the brothers of the victim splitting on this issue. Bill Otis once noted victims should be politely heard from but ultimately it's the state's call since it is the state's case as a representative of "the people." The possibility of complications in the narrative was also cited in the victim impact statement cases that reached the USSC.

If the governor uses this as a grounds, will he be consistent? Will some governors ignore "outliers" of the family in certain cases?

Posted by: Joe | Feb 2, 2014 10:47:02 AM

LWOP for non-capital offenders is also very expensive, federalist, but you often advocate against even giving them even a chance for parole. Does your financial concern only kick into support execution rather than other means of saving money when LWOP is at issue?

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 2, 2014 10:57:39 AM

Obviously, as I have noted in the past, the commutation of a death sentence can be exceedingly cruel to a victim's family. The execution of a killer, not so much. So, as I have indicated before, we're not talking equivalence here. This isn't a hard thing to grasp, and I suspect Joe, you get that, hence the couched nature of your comment.

Kasich has proven himself to be somewhat of a wuss on the death penalty. I am hopeful that he will let justice be carried out.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 2, 2014 11:02:25 AM

federalist, some families of victims oppose the death penalty, including for religious reasons. For them, the execution can be hurtful, since they are against the death penalty and don't want to support it. IIRC, a person of this mindset guest posted (I forget the details) and federalist was taken aback.

If we are concerned about victims, when the victims oppose the death penalty, we should respect their concerns. As noted, since the state prosecutes, victims concerns are not the only thing in balance. So, victims opposing the death penalty has not led the state in various cases not to execute. Likewise, victims can be very upset at death sentences not being carried out. But, that isn't the only issue involved. Some victims also rather rapists, e.g., be castrated. We don't do that sort of thing.

I believe I get it, yes.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 2, 2014 11:13:09 AM

Joe, there are people who go above and beyond for a killer. Yes, I am going to comment on that.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 2, 2014 11:43:38 AM

Victim family belief is a part of retribution. Retribution is from the Bible and unlawful in our secular nation. The Bible was written by Iraqi and Palestinian peasants who lived like animals. Bringing their culture and lifestyle to our own is disgusting. Why not join them in bathing once a year whether needed or not, and going to the bathroom outdoors? Lethal injections are not retributive enough. Proper retribution requires the method of the murder be repeated on the murderer. If one wants to go Biblical, kill his family and animals first.

The death penalty is not even a punishment. It should not be covered by the Eighth Amendment. It is, only because the lawyer dumbass does not know the meaning of punishment. Rather it is an expulsion, and the best form of incapacitation. It is not carried out to benefit the family of the victim. It is carried out to benefit the entire population, to enhance its safety by elimination of a threat. The general population is the client of the prosecution and of its agent the polic, so said the Supreme Court repeatedly. Catering to the wishes of the family in either direction is to submit government to the service of private interest.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 2, 2014 12:01:52 PM

victims' rights only sometimes

Posted by: claudio giusti | Feb 2, 2014 2:05:19 PM

| The Bible was written by Iraqi and Palestinian peasants who lived like animals. Bringing their culture and lifestyle to our own is disgusting. |


/ “Many Roman leaders, unlike their Jewish & counterparts, committed suicide:
Brutus, Cassius, Pilate, Seneca, Hadrian, Nero, Cato, Maximian, Otho, Quintillus, Magnentius, Varus, Gordian I, &c., &c. because
"life itself was always to remain within his choice"”--Will Durant, 1944, Caesar & Christ

"Charity found little scope in this [Roman way of] life…the sympathetic Polybius reports that 'in Rome no one ever gives
away anything to anyone if he can help it'—doubtless an exaggeration (somewhat)"--Will Durant, 1944, Caesar & Christ

-- Such a JEWISH-CHRISTIAN “culture” lifted the atheistic and pantheistic ones from their pit of filth. Would you have us return to this? --

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 3, 2014 9:39:08 AM

Adamakis: Say knowledge doubles every 10 years, exponentially. The more one knows, the more one knows what one does not know. Imagine where we would be if the Romans had not become Christian, had not given up on protecting their great civilization, and skipped a 1000 years of Dark Ages, enforced at the point of the sword by the Church, that was threatened by all rational ideas. We missed 100 doublings of knowledge thanks to the Church.

I am an Intelligent Atheist, and do not bash religion. It explains to people with IQ's lower than 125 why they should be kind, go to work, care for their families, and not do the Roman Orgy (Ha!) full time. It balances the sexual insanity of the young male. It does that when causing wars, advocating the slaughter of all members of other religions, and imposing its irrational beliefs at the point of a sword. Religious societies are richer societies. Priests persuaded a Pharaoh, holding all asses to building a pile of stones, carefully aimed to send his soul to heaven. He bought that wicked story, and spent his assets paying idled workers to work during the off season of the Nile. That labor still generates $billons in tourist income, today in Egypt. I support mainstream, ordinary religions. I oppose wack job extremist ones, the Taliban, the Comet people who commited suicide to rejoin it, as if an aimed rocket, and the lawyer profession, an extremist wacko, criminal cult enterprise.

But all religions promote ethical behavior, if they are to be beneficial. The intellectuals of the time knew the Earth was round, but spent little time on religion. They adopted son one's riuals for the purpose of appearing pious.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 3, 2014 12:09:30 PM

Adamakis: More relevant to this blog: religion is 10 times more successful than the criminal law at reducing crime in those who have not committed crimes, and in rehabilitating those who have committed crimes. Not afraid of the police, afraid of the Lord. It should be encouraged, rewarded, and respected in prison.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 3, 2014 12:15:43 PM

We need an island penal colony somewhere on the other side of the world. Perhaps we could cut a deal with China out in that contested part of the South China Sea. Then we could ship thousands of inmates there and be done with them. Let them live off the stuff they can grow. Shoot em if they go offshore. It would be a good place for the Navy to conduct exercises. If disease hits, send in Doctors Without Borders. It would save us billions. My campaign phrase on this will be: Billions for defense but not one cent inmate!

Posted by: Liberty1st | Feb 3, 2014 12:31:03 PM

The Roman era was dark for many.

| “I am an Intelligent Atheist, and do not bash religion.” |
 So what was “animal[istic]” and “disgusting” about those who wrote the Bible?

// "To the poor, the widows and orphans, Christians gave alms and support, like the synagogue communities, their forerunners…
Lucian, the pagan satirist was well aware…When Christians were brought to die in the arena, the crowds, said Tertullian, would shout, "Look how these Christians love
one another."// —Robin Fox, Oxford, 1986, Pagans & Christians

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 3, 2014 12:59:45 PM

|” if the Romans had not become Christian … and skipped a 1000 years of Dark Ages”|

 “[To] set the stage for the emergence of moden science[:] The two major influences were Greek and Hebrew-Christian….
other “pagan” ideas of nature were shown to be inadequate, in the new climate of biblical awareness brought about by the Reformation …
with the new availability of the Bible to the masses and its re-emergence as a major cultural force, that it added impetus to the development of science
the exponential growth of science…”—Malcolm Jeeves, 1968, Cambridge, St. Andrews, The Scientific Enterprise

 James Moore, Cambridge, Open U., science historian and visiting scholar at Harvard also avowed the: "distinct and plausible evidence that
Protestantism gave rise to modern science."—Tim Dowley, 1990, The History of Christianity

-- Whilst you’re at it with conjecture, what would have happened if the Protestant Reformation had taken place, would we have skipped a 1 000 yrs of Dark Ages,
would the Vikings have not mass- slaughtered and raped?

Pagan Greco-Roman thinkers only made it so far, constrained by unbiblical fears, and evolutionary imaginations.

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 3, 2014 2:10:05 PM

The Romans dominated because of their technological superiority, as the British did after steam, and the US with mass production. Part of their superiority also can be attributed to very modern sounding legal system, with most elements of the common law in place and actually copied from Roman law.

I deride Scholasticism as used in 2014. I do not do so for 1275 AD. They brought back the books of the Greeks and Romans. That rapidly led to the Renaissance, including the idea of proving the existence of God through the study of nature. That began a tradition and method observation and cataloging.

While I like the morality it teaches, I oppose the Inquisition with its business model of defunding the merchant class to enrich the Church. That business model ended after 700 years only after the execution of 1000's of high Church officials by French patriots. That model is so robust and stable, only a mass eradication of the hierarchy can influence it.

That was them, we are different. Heck, no. this is us, with lawyers practicing the language of the church, the methods of the church, the appearance of the church, the supernatural, concepts, plagiarizing the catechism, and yes, using the business model of the Inquisition. If you can think of another effective remedy than mass eradication, I am open to any to rid us of this pestilential invasion of vermin.

We pity Mexico, where people have to pay off the police with a few dollars. Meanwhile, cult criminals in the US have fully taken over our government, and make 99% of policies, mostly to serve their interests, with the crumbs going to the public. Imagine the Drug Cartel fully controlling their government, and taking $trillion a year out of the economy, returning only death and destruction in exchange. That is the same as the lawyer profession in the US, just slicker, with their Ivy educations, and slick talking points. Name a social pathology, a race disparity, a man made disaster, a lawyer is starting, controlling, and maintaining it.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 3, 2014 3:13:47 PM

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