Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This Time with Dissents

It was August 13, 1987 when Billy Slagle, 18 years old, brutally murdered Mari Anne Pope.  Nine months later, to the day, just over 25 years ago, Slagle arrived on death row.  He's still there.

Two years ago he was scheduled to be executed.  The Parole Board did it's thing and gave a unanimous recommendation to the governor:
Kill the SOB.
Didn't happen.  Kasich gave him a reprieve.  It's now run out. Slagle's next up, scheduled to be killed on August 7.

But things can change.  And so the Parole Board meets again.  They began, as they do, by interviewing Billy who asked for LWOP.

That vicious killer wasn't me, he said.  Not that I'm innocent, but that it was an aberration, that's not the kind of person I am and not the sort I was.  I was drunk and stoned that night, and I acted out of character, he said.  I'm remorseful, he said.  I'm a good prisoner, don't get in trouble, he said. 

And there was much of the usual.  Billy was just 18, the youngest age of eligibility for death in Ohio even then. The mitigation evidence the jury heard was incomplete.  His drug and alcohol problems were truly acute and accounted for what happened.  His mother was Native American and alcohol use and alcoholism are epidemic in that community - and in their home.  He cares for his family and they for him. The world has changed and this case likely wouldn't get a death sentence today.  One juror refused to consider any mitigation evidence.

And the state put on its standard show.  Billy's death sentence has never been overturned, which means clemency is improper.*  The Board would be dissing the jury if it recommended clemency.  The trial lawyers were experienced.  An eye for an eye.

But there was something else.  The new prosecutor in Cuyahoga County.  He's apparently less enthusiastic about pursuing capital charges than his predecessors.  He's even game to revisit the death sentences they got and consider.  Which he did in Billy Slagle's case.  And as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, he thinks Slagle's sentence should be commuted to LWOP.   And so he told the Board.  And he sent one of his assistants to make the case.  

This morning the Board spoke.
Kill the SOB
Which is, of course, what they said before.  But then it was unanimous.  Not so this time.  This time it was 6-4.

Which isn't a recommendation of life, but it's something for the Governor to hang his metaphoric hat on.

*I've observed before how basically stupid that argument is (usually it comes from the Parole Board itself).  The governor should only commute death sentences, that is, for people who no longer have them.

1 comment:

  1. I have some experience with alcohol abuse on the Indian reservations in South Dakota, and there is absolutely nothing on earth to equal it.