There is no doubt that the defendant played a significant, material role in this heinous crime, but precise details of that role are frustratingly unclear to the point that Ohio shouldn’t deliver the ultimate penalty in this case. Therefore, I am ordering that he spend the rest of his life in prison and have no chance of ever getting out. As someone who has experienced sudden and tragic loss, I know the pain that comes with losing loved ones. My prayers go out to the families of Diamond Marteen and Terrance Richard in the hope that they may find peace.
That's the statement Governor Kasich issued when he commuted Shawn Hawkins's sentence. It's no small thing that he did this.
Here, from Mark Curnutte at Cincinnati.com (which is the Cincinnati Enquirer), are some reactions.
Judy Hogan and Chuck Hogan, Hawkins’ mother and stepfather, celebrated the clemency news in their North College Hill home.
"I feel like I am floating on air,” Judy Hogan said. “The first thing I said was, `Thank you, Jesus.’”
Chuck Hogan said, “We’re ecstatic.”
Barbara Richard, of North College Hill – Terrance Richard’s mother – questioned the effectiveness of the state’s criminal justice apparatus when hearing of Hawkins’ commuted death sentence.
“If a man can spend 22 years in prison and still get clemency, then the system ain’t working,” she said.
Hawkins’ family held a news conference in its North College Hill home Wednesday afternoon to thank supporters, among them Alice Gerdeman, the Catholic nun and director of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Over-the-Rhine.
“This case is the exact reason why we need to pass legislation,” Gerdeman said in reference to a bill introduced this year in the Ohio House to end capital punishment. “We came so close – less than a week – before someone who has a very viable innocence claim was going to be put to death.”
Anthony Covatta, who has maintained his client’s innocence, released a statement shortly after hearing of Kasich’s decision.
“Our thanks go out to the thousands of citizens and interested persons, from holders of high public office to the ordinary people on the streets and in the churches, temples and synagogues of our great state and around the world who supported us in this application. More remains to be done to see that Shawn is some day a free man.”
That comes close to covering the spectrum.
Except maybe this, from a friend of mine.
Aren't those we have serious doubt about entitled to more than a cell for the rest of their lives?
Because it's worth remembering that Hawkins is still sentenced to death in prison. Only the means of his death have been changed.
As I said, that's no small thing. Justice Stewart said in Gregg v. Georgia.
[D]eath is different in kind from any other punishment imposed under our system of criminal justice.
That's as true now as it was in 1976, though it might be helpful to clarify it by changing "death" to "murder" or at least "killing." Regardless, it remains that the death penalty, death as an actual sentence, to be imposed, is a sentence of a different sort than life in prison with death as the necessary end.
So thanks to Kasich.
May he do it again.