Published: Sun, July 22, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Ohio killer spared death penalty after extent of childhood abuse revealed

Ohio killer spared death penalty after extent of childhood abuse revealed

The decision Friday by the Republican governor moves the scheduled execution of Cleveland Jackson from September to May 2019.

Jackson was sentenced to death in the 2002 execution-style murders of 17-year-old Leneshia Williams and 3-year-old Jayla Grant on Lima's Eureka Street.

Raymond Tibbetts was spared by Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Friday after the condemned killer's death sentence was challenged because information about the extent of the inmate's tough childhood wasn't properly presented at trial, according to a juror. Kasich said that there were "fundamental flaws" in sentencing Tibbetts.

He faulted the defense team for not calling the one sibling of Tibbetts who is leading a stable life and was willing to testify during sentencing about the hard childhood they all shared.

Tibbetts was scheduled to be executed on October 17 after Kasich delayed an earlier execution date over a juror's concerns the jury wasn't informed of Tibbett's abuse-filled childhood and drug addiction during his trial 20 years ago.

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He said if "prosecutors had been honest and forthcoming about the horrors" Tibbetts experienced as a child, he "would have voted for life without parole over death".

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Geiger said Tibbetts deserves to be in prison but based on what he knows today, "I would not have recommended the death penalty". Tibbetts had been set to be executed October 17.

Tibbetts was convicted of killing his wife Judith Crawford and landlord Fred Hicks in 1997 in Cincinnati.

Geiger wrote to Kasich in January about Tibbetts' case, and presented the issue before a parole board last month. He also testified in front of Ohio's Parole Board, arguing that the jurors had sentenced him to death not knowing the details of his childhood to the extent that he now knew.

"Specifically, the defense's failure to present sufficient mitigating evidence, coupled with an inaccurate description of Tibbetts' childhood by the prosecution, essentially prevented the jury from making an informed decision about whether Tibbetts deserved the death sentence", Kasich said in a statement.

Mark Hicks, the nephew of Fred Hicks, had pleaded with OH officials to execute Tibbetts for his crimes in a letter. "The law in OH allows for heinous killers like Tibbetts to be executed", Hicks wrote.

Erin Barnhart, a federal public defender representing Tibbetts, said Kasich performed the state a great service in sparing the inmate. He and his half-brother, Jeronique Cunnigham, were sentenced to death in the case.

The board had voted against his request, siding with prosecutors who argued that Tibbetts' past did not outweigh his crimes, U.S. media reported.

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