Tag Archives: Ohio

The Latest Death Penalty Headlines

Editor’s Note: Some readers may have noticed this blog hasn’t been updated in almost a year. Due to a variety of factors, not least of which was a simple lack of time, I took a hiatus from posting here. I’m now trying to make more time in my schedule for this project, so with any luck regular postings will be returning. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

The Tennessee Senate Has Backed a Bill to Reinstate the Electric Chair

Tennessee Senators overwhelming voted on Wednesday to reinstate the electric chair to execute capital inmates in the event that the state is unable to procure the necessary chemicals to perform lethal injections.

In a 23-3 vote, the Senate approved the Capital Punishment Enforcement Act, tabled by Sen. Ken Yager, which would provide the state’s Department of Corrections with the legal backing to kill inmates with the electric chair as an alternative, according to The Tennessean.

A similar piece of legislation has reportedly been tabled in Tennessee’s House of Representatives.

Related: The First Photograph of an Execution by Electric Chair

Now He Tells Us: John Paul Stevens Wants to Abolish the Death Penalty:

A man who consistently upheld capital convictions and the death penalty itself for over 35 years, who helped send hundreds of men and women to their deaths by failing to hold state officials accountable for constitutional violations during capital trials, who more recently endorsed dubious lethal injection standards because he did not want to buck up against court precedent, now wants the Eighth Amendment to read this way, with five new words added:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments such as the death penalty inflicted.


Indiana Woman Starts Petition to get the American Pharmacist Association to Alter Code of Ethics to Ban Participation in Executions: 

“The Association could help put a stop to the manufacturing and supplying of drugs used for lethal injections,” Kauffman’s petition, which garnered more than 36,000 signatures, explains, “and help end the use of the death penalty in the U.S. once and for all.”

“I was reading an article last July about an execution that was postponed in Georgia because the Department of Corrections wouldn’t give any information to the lawyers or the judges about what execution drugs were going to be used and where they had gotten them from. The article mentioned that pharmacists, unlike other medical professionals, are not banned from participating in executions. And I remember thinking — wow, that’s surprising,” Kauffman recounted in an interview with ThinkProgress. “I happen to be opposed to the death penalty. But I’m especially opposed to the medicalization of the death penalty.”

Report Recommends 56 Changes to Ohio Death Penalty, Would Restrict Use of Law: 

Ohio should restrict the use of capital punishment charges and create a state panel to approve them, according to two of the 56 recommendations in the final report by a committee that spent more than two years studying changes to the law.

The committee proposes eliminating cases where an aggravated murder was committed during a burglary, robbery or rape, requiring solid proof of a defendant’s guilt such as DNA evidence, and banning the execution of the mentally ill, according to a draft copy of the report obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.


New York Times Debate: What It Means if the Death Penalty Is Dying:

Last week, lawmakers in New Hampshire heard testimony on a bill outlawing the death penalty. If passed, the law would make New Hampshire the 19th state to abolish capital punishment. The United States, the only country in the Americas to practice the death penalty last year, executed 39 people, four fewer than the year before, and Texas accounted for 41 percent of them, according to Amnesty International.

As executions become concentrated in fewer and fewer states and racial disparities continue, does the application of capital punishment make it unconstitutionally cruel and unusual?


Man on Texas Death Row Testifies in Court to Hurry His Execution:

A Corpus Christi man on death row for fatally shooting a five-year old boy nearly 22 years ago is one step away from getting a solid execution date.

Larry Hatten, 38, testified Thursday in the 347th District Court about his own competency before Judge Missy Medary. He was brought back from death row to testify after he sent his attorney a letter saying he did not want anymore appeals.

On Thursday, Hatten told the judge that he just didn’t want to waste anymore time.

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This Morning’s Execution: Frederick Treesh, Ohio

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

UPDATE: Frederick Treesh has been executed.

Ohio carried out its first execution of 2013, with the lethal injection of a man who killed a security guard in a multi-state crime spree in 1994.

Frederick Treesh, 48, was convicted of fatally shooting 58-year-old Henry Dupree during a robbery of an adult bookstore on Aug. 27, 1994. According to court documents, Treesh and three companions had been driving around for several hours smoking crack cocaine when they decided to rob a business to get more money for drugs.

According to an Associated Press story, “prosecutors contend Treesh intentionally murdered Dupree and tried to kill others, including police officers who pursued him, after a three-week spree of increasingly violent crimes. They said Treesh and a co-defendant had robbed banks and businesses, committed sexual assaults, stole cars, committed carjackings and shot someone to death in a Michigan robbery during a spree that also took them to Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.”

In a clemency plea to the Ohio Parole Board, Treesh’s attorneys argued that he had accepted responsibility for the killing and was deeply remorseful, but that it was unintentional and had taken place during a struggle for a gun during the robbery.

“Hindsight, regret and remorse cannot turn back the clock and cannot return Mr. Dupree’s life,” they said according to the AP. “What Fred can do and has tried to do is to help prevent others from making the same mistakes he did” by teaching them to avoid drugs.

The attorneys said Treesh has become a changed man in prison, working to educate young people about the pitfalls of drug use and addiction through the DARE program. They also pointed to their client’s ADHD and cocaine addiction as reasons for mercy. Treesh chose not to be interviewed during the hearing.

The board unanimously rejected the appeal for clemency on Friday, Feb. 8, writing that “Treesh’s ADHD and his cocaine addiction do not warrant the exercise of Executive clemency….That addiction, even in combination with his ADHD, does not excuse or significantly mitigate his behavior. Nor does it explain why Treesh acted so violently and so unconscionably during his criminal rampage.”

Later in the 23-page report, the board also pointed out Treesh’s history of disciplinary problems in prison.

“That Treesh displays these negative qualities in prison, a structured and sober environment, strongly suggests that this is simply who Treesh is, with or without the intoxicating effects of cocaine,” the board wrote.

Gov. John Kasich followed the board’s recommendation and denied to grant clemency on Feb. 28.

Treesh was transported to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday in preparation for this morning’s execution. He had his last meal Tuesday night at 8:06 p.m., when he ate steak, eggs, hash browns, cottage cheese, onion rings and a hot fudge sundae.

Ohio’s last execution was in November, when the state executed Brett Hartman. The state uses a single-drug method, a large dose of pentobarbital, for their current lethal injection procedure.

Tracey Read, the police/court reporter for The News-Herald in Willoughby was at the prison and tweeting coverage of the execution.

According to Read’s account of the execution, “Treesh remained stoic the entire 32 minutes he was strapped to the gurney, even as blood trickled down his left arm from the prison staff injecting drugs into his veins.”

24-Hour News 8 reporter Karen Hensel was the only television reporter inside of the execution. According to Hensel’s report, Treesh made the following final statement:

“I would like to thank Karen Hensel for following up on a job after 20 years. This is where drugs lead you. This is true life. I wanted her to take a picture of the execution. You can’t, but I’m sure you can go to the morgue to take a picture. I’m not here to say I’m sorry to any of these victims that are here.  I’ve never been tried, never been charged with that crime.  I’m here for Henry Dupree and I’m sorry. I’d like to apologize to their family for what I’ve done.

You want closure? Closure only comes with a book. You close it and put it on a shelf.  There is no closure. Every holiday, every birthday, everything, you will think about the victim.  So, if you want me murdered, just say it. I’d also like to thank the Major at the Southeastern Ohio Correctional Facility for being such a wonderful person, and the execution team.  They treated me very well. I also want to thank Mike Benza (death penalty attorney) and my best friend James Goff (death row inmate). That’s it.”

Related Reading: 

Ohio Executes Frederick Treesh for 1994 Eastlake Killing

John Kasich Rejects Clemency For Frederick Treesh, Condemned Ohio Killer

Execution of Frederick Treesh Moves Forward After Clemency Denied by Governor

Ohio Parole Board Recommends No Clemency for Death Row Inmate Frederick Treesh

Former MANCI Inmate Treesh Set for Execution

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This Morning’s Execution: Donald “Duke” Palmer


Ohio has carried out the execution of 43-year-old Donald “Duke” Palmer this morning in Lucasville. Palmer was convicted of aggravated murder for the May 1989 shootings of Charlse Sponhaltz and Steven Vargo. He did not know either of the men.

Palmer’s time of death was 10:35 a.m. ET. His death reduces Ohio’s death row to 145 inmates, its lowest population since 1995.

According to the Associated Press, “Palmer told police that he and co-defendant Edward Hill were driving from Columbus to the Belmont County home of a man who had dated Palmer’s ex-wife and Hill’s sister.

“As they were driving back and forth in front of the home, Sponhaltz – who was keeping an eye on the house – lightly hit the back of their pickup with his own truck and yelled at them: “What in the hell are you trying to prove?” according to the records.

“Palmer then shot Sponhaltz twice in the head.

“Vargo, a passing motorist, stopped and asked “What the hell did you guys do,” Palmer told police, according to the records. Palmer then shot Vargo twice in the head.”

Palmer decided not to request clemency from the Ohio Parole Board, and his attorney, David Stebbins, told the Associated Press that he does not plan to file any more appeals on Palmer’s behalf.

“He has always accepted responsibility for this and wants the families of his victims to have justice,” Stebbins said in the article.

In an interview with Fred Connors for The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register, Palmer admitted to his crimes and said “I deserve to die” for them.

Palmer was moved from the state’s death row in Chillicothe to the death house at the Souther Correctional Center in Lucasville on Wednesday. He spent his final evening visiting with his son and daughter, spending about two hours with them, according to a local reporter who was on the scene. He also visited with his ex-wife and his pastor.

Palmer’s final meal, which was served at 8:05 p.m. Wednesday night, included chipped ham, Velveeta cheese, mayonnaise, two sliced tomatoes, one loaf of wheat bread, one bag of ranch Doritos, two large bags of peanut M&Ms, one quart of hazelnut ice cream, one piece of cheesecake and six 20 ounce bottles of Coke. Palmer was also offered but declined a breakfast this morning of apple juice, grits, boiled eggs, margarine, white bread, milk, coffee and sugar.

According to prison officials, Palmer only slept about 30 minutes Wednesday night, and spent most of his time reading, watching television and writing.

In the detailed report of Palmer’s final hours released by local media outlet WTRF.com, Palmer was allowed another visit with his children this morning from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m., during which they read the Bible and sang. He also visited with his ex-wife and Chaplain Lyle Orr, and received Communion at 7:51 a.m.

In his final words before the execution began, Palmer apologized repeatedly to the family of his victims:

“I want you to know I’ve carried you in my heart for years and years,” Palmer said. “I’m so sorry for what I took from you …I hope your pain and hurt die with me today.”

Palmer also said he wished his death could bring back their family members.

“I know it can’t,” he said. “I pray that you have good lives now. I’m sorry.”


Donald Palmer, Ohio Death Row Inmate, Set To Be Executed

Ohio Inmate Calm, Emotional as Execution Nears

Convicted Killer Moved to Ohio Death House

Donald Palmer’s blog from death row

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Final Words From Donald “Duke” Palmer

NOTE: Donald Palmer, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection this morning in Ohio, did an interview recently with Fred Connors, of The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register. It’s an incredibly personal, intimate account of why he did not ask for clemency, his thoughts on the death penalty, what items he possesses that he values and the things he misses from his childhood. I’m posting it below, and you can also view the original article here.


CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Donald “Duke” Palmer’s worldly possessions include a television, a radio, hot pot, a lamp and a fan.

He will spend much of this week giving those items to his fellow death row inmates. Palmer is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

During a death row interview last week at Ohio’s Chillicothe Correctional Institution, Palmer, a Martins Ferry native who murdered Charles Sponhaltz and Steven Vargo along Belmont 2 near the Jefferson County line on May 8, 1989, offered regrets for the murders but said he’s ready to die.

“I killed Mr. Sponhaltz and I killed Mr. Vargo and I deserve to die for it,” Palmer, 47, said.

Ohio death chamber

AP photo

He talked at length during the hour-long interview about his victims and their loved ones but asked that his apologies not be published until after his death.

“I don’t want (my apologies) to be cheapened or be seen as a ploy to somehow stop what’s going to happen,” he said. “I’m not trying to forgive my way out of this. I’m not.”

Palmer said he did not ask for clemency because he does not want to spend the rest of his life in prison.

“I mean, either way is a death sentence in prison,” he said. “I don’t want to sit around and wait for forever to come down. I’m just at the end of this. I’m tired. I want it to be known that it’s OK that I am being executed.”

Palmer said he has known his execution date for 14 months.

Asked how he is dealing with knowing the exact date and time he is going to die, Palmer said, “I’ve been dealing with it since day one. I didn’t know that I had more than five years coming. Then 10 years went by. And then 15 years went by. And then 20 years. … By the time 20 years go by, I was ready to die. I’m just ready.”

While confirming that Ohio is not putting an innocent man to death, Palmer said “No” when asked if he received a fair trial.

He said he appealed for a new trial in an effort to get to the truth about what happened.

“They didn’t convict me of the truth,” he said.

“Now, like I said, I killed these two guys. So I know that I deserve to die for this. But, they didn’t convict me of the truth. They convicted me of innuendo. They convicted me of things that didn’t happen. They put on evidence of things that just weren’t true.”

Palmer’s recollection of May 8, 1989, the day of the murders, goes like this: he awoke that morning in Columbus, Ohio, with “the shakes” due to his cocaine addiction. He went to a liquor store with his co-defendant, Eddie Hill, where they purchased a bottle of whiskey. Palmer said he drank 80 to 90 percent of that bottle during the day.

The two drove to Belmont County and eventually made their way to Belmont 2, near the Jefferson County line. There, they encountered Sponhaltz when Hill’s vehicle struck the rear the Sponhaltz’s vehicle.

Hill and Sponhaltz exited their respective vehicles, followed by Palmer who had a gun in his hand. Palmer said he attempted to punch Sponhaltz when the gun went off, striking Sponhaltz in the head. He then shot Sponhaltz once more in the head, killing him.

“Everything happened in a panic and fear and in bad, bad judgment, bad decisions, drunken judgment. I’m an addict, I’m afraid and I’m drunk. And it was just, you know, anything that could have gone wrong did go wrong and I made all the wrong decisions,” Palmer recalled.

Vargo appeared a few minutes later, stopping to see if the men needed help. Palmer also shot him twice in the head.

“Vargo died because he showed up at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Palmer said.

Asked about his lifestyle at the time, Palmer said, “I was a punk, and I was an addict. I was … a broken person. I was messed up because of my divorce. … That’s why I tried to commit suicide on Feb. 6, 1989. … That was my identity. Father. Husband. I got married the week after I turned 18 at the First Christian Church in Martins Ferry. And, this was my life. …

“I didn’t put God first in my life. And I know that’s why my life didn’t work out for me. But when I got divorced it broke me. I ran around and tried to fill a hole inside of me. Everything. Drugs. Sex. Running around. Fast cars. Motorcycles. Living in Florida on the beach and sailing. You name it, I did it. I had no fear of doing anything. And I was living fast and loose and, I don’t know, God wasn’t around then. Not in my life anyway.”

Palmer said he sometimes questions why he lived while Sponhaltz and Vargo died.

“If I had died, Sponhaltz and Vargo wouldn’t have been killed just a few months later,” he said, referring to his failed suicide attempt. “So it made me question why would God do that? Why would he let me live and these two die to go all the way to this point? But I did find an answer to the question. And the answer was because I didn’t put God first in my life. … People don’t understand when I say it but I thank God for death row. For putting me here. Because if he didn’t put me here, I would have died in my sins. … But now, I know that I’m saved. I know that I’m going to be fine. Every single one of us has a date.”

Palmer said he is a graduate of Martins Ferry High School. He said he worked for a time in construction in Charlotte County, Fla.

As for Hill, Palmer filed an affidavit with the Ohio Parole Board maintaining that Hill didn’t have anything to do with the murders of Vargo and Sponhaltz. Hill currently is serving lengthy prison sentences for his role in the murders.

Hill “didn’t kill anybody. He couldn’t have stopped me from killing anybody. He didn’t know that I was going to kill anybody. He wrecked the car. He was drinking and driving and wrecked the car. That’s the only crime he committed before the murders,” Palmer said. “I shot Sponhaltz. Eddie ran and jumped down over the side of the road. Didn’t even see Vargo get shot. But, he got 30 to life on Vargo and only 15 to life on Sponhaltz. … I feel really bad that I got this man doing a life sentence.”

Aside from the possessions he will give to fellow inmates, Palmer said he has a few treasured items.

“The only things that mean anything to me are my pictures of my kids and my artwork and my Bibles. That’s it,” he said.

Palmer also said he misses his hometown of Martins Ferry, where he spent his childhood.

“I loved Martins Ferry,” he said. “I loved waking up every morning right across from Nickles Bakery and smelling that bread baking. I could see the Ohio River every morning. I’d see the northern tip of the Island. You could literally walk right down over the hill and go fishing. Every day, I’d sit there and look at Wheeling.

“I miss those things. I remember the train bridge before it was gone. I used to walk across it. Go play on it. Jump off of it. Do all kind of weird things. It’s like Tom Sawyer but not quite, you know. … But I miss that place. That is home to me.”

Palmer said executions should be more public.

“If you have a law on the books, especially when it comes to punishment, if this is what you agree to, as citizens you need to take responsibility for what’s being done in your name,” he said. “I’m not saying there should be public executions. I’m saying that it should be more open. The public should know that it’s being done in their name. They should know that their representatives are the ones who are killing. My blood is on their hands.

“I think the death penalty should be on the ballot every year because if you’re going to kill people, you need to take responsibility for what’s being done. Period. Show me where it’s a deterrent. It’s going to deter me from ever doing it again. But, how is that going to deter the 24-year-old punk that’s out there now?”

Asked what he would say to death penalty protesters who may be outside of the prison during his execution, he said, “Nothing. They’re going to have to work that out for themselves.”

Palmer said there is some irony in his execution date because his mother died on the same date in 2003.

“I’m going to be executed the same date as my mom died,” he said. “My clemency hearing (Aug. 16, 2012) was the same date my son died, Aug. 16, 2005.”

Palmer will be moved from death row in Chillicothe to Lucasville 24 hours before his scheduled execution.

He will visit with his son and daughter on the night prior to the execution but he does not want them to witness it. His attorney, pastor and a penal chaplain will serve as witnesses in his behalf.

As the interview concluded, Palmer offered these final words: “I apologize and I hope that when it comes time for them to find peace that they will seek the Lord Jesus because there is peace there.”

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Yesterday’s Execution: Mark Wiles

Ohio carried out its first execution in six months yesterday with the lethal injection of Mark Wiles, ending an unofficial moratorium.

From Reuters:

Ohio on Wednesday executed a 49-year-old farm hand who murdered a teenage boy after the man was caught stealing money from the youth’s farmhouse in 1985.

Mark Wiles was put to death by lethal injection at 10:42 a.m. local time at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. He is the 14th person executed in the United States this year.

He was sentenced to die for the August 7, 1985, murder of 15-year-old Mark Klima, a top student who aspired to be a doctor. Wiles stabbed the boy 24 times with a kitchen knife, according to an official clemency report.

Wiles worked at the Klima family’s horse farm in Rootstown in northern Ohio and had been stealing from the family for some time. At the time of the murder, Klima was the only one home, and Wiles was not supposed to be at the residence.

A panel of three judges convicted Wiles the following year, not persuaded by a doctor’s testimony that Wiles had suffered a head injury 12 days before the murder that may have affected his impulse control.

At his clemency hearing last month, Wiles said he “was not sure he was worthy of clemency.” It was denied.

The execution was allowed to proceed after U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost lifted an order that had postponed two previously scheduled executions this year.

On April 4, Frost denied Wiles’ motion to delay his execution, ruling the state had fixed problems with its death penalty protocols.

Prison spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said Wiles requested for his final meal the night before the execution a pepperoni pizza, a bag of cheese puffs, strawberries, a salad with ranch dressing, cheesecake, and a vanilla wafer.

Ohio has executed 47 people since the state resumed executions in 1999.

There were 43 executions in the United States in 2011.

Read more:

Ohio’s Death Penalty Moratorium Didn’t Last Very Long

Ohio prepares to execute 1st inmate in six months

Ohio executes Mark Wiles

Ohio resumes executions, could regain status as one of country’s busiest death penalty states

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Reginald Brooks Executed in Ohio

In addition to  Oba Chandler, another lethal injection took place this afternoon with the execution of Reginald Brooks in Ohio. Brooks became the first person put to death in the state since it revised death penalty procedures in September, ending a six-month break in executions in the state that often executes more than any other state except Texas. Brooks was convicted of killing his three sons while they slept in 1982.

At 66 years old, Brooks was the oldest person put to death since Ohio resumed executions in 1999. He declined to make a final statement, but witnesses and prison officials said he raised his middle finder on each hand and his hands remained that way throughout the procedure. His time of death was 2:04 p.m.

For his last meal, Brooks requested lasagna, garlic bread, ice cream, chocolate cake, root beer, almonds, beef jerky and caramel candy.

Read more:

Ohio man who killed three sons is executed

With obscene gestures, Ohio man who fatally shot 3 sleeping sons in 1982 is executed


News reporter gives details of witnessing Brooks execution

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