Baston, 37, was pronounced dead at 10:30 a.m. for the March 21, 1994 slaying of Chong-Hoon Mah, a former South Korean journalist who emigrated to Toledo and owned the downtown shop Continental Wigs ‘n Things.
“For a long time I didn’t see a lot of value in myself,’’ Baston said shortly before the drug began to flow into his veins inside the death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Institution. “It wasn’t until this moment, 'til I had to go through this ordeal, that I have seen so much love from so many people, letters from people all over the world, and even Ohio.’’
He briefly interrupted his final statement as he fought back tears.
“I was hoping I didn’t cry,’’ he said.
“It’s OK. It’s OK if you cry,’’ an older brother, Richard Baston, told him from behind the glass separating witnesses from the lethal injection chamber.
Another brother, Ron Baston, stood, slammed his right arm against a wall, and uttered an expletive as Johnnie Roy Baston, who was adopted by the Baston family, appeared to stop breathing.
EXCERPTS FROM JOHNNIE ROY BASTON’S FINAL STATEMENT
I would like to say to my family I am very sorry. I know this is not what they wanted to have happen. I hope they won’t be too bothered by what is taking place today.
It is not their doing. Just the way things go.
I hope my execution, that it will be the last, that people will open up. The victims in my case didn’t want me to be executed. They wanted life
without parole. That should have been respected. That should have been respected by our governor ...
I made a bad decision and I hope my family can move on and find some comfort and peace. I would like to say I’m sorry to my family. I made a bad decision.
I want you to reach out to my children. I love them so much. I want you to tell them stories about me. I want them to know the good things about me, even through my time in prison I wanted to better myself, encourage others. Remind them of that. My daughter, she’s quiet, a lot like me. Just like me.
I want you to watch her. If she talks, listen.
I want to thank all the members of my church, my friends who petitioned, letters, faxed, Twittered, hopefully, to the governor, to show mercy.
For a long time I didn’t see a lot of value in myself. It wasn’t until this moment till I had to go through this ordeal that I have seen so much love from so many people. Letters from people all over the world, and even Ohio.
I appreciate every last letter, I appreciate every last card, every last prayer, every last encouragement.
I was hoping I didn’t cry.
Dear heavenly father, I have sinned, and I repent of my sins, I pray for forgiveness. As I close my eyes on the light of this world, I hope to open my eyes to the light in heaven.
Gov. John Kasich denied Baston’s petition for clemency later on Friday. He agreed with a 9-0 recommendation from the Ohio Parole Board that Baston’s case did not warrant mercy, despite the fact that the Mah family presented a united front in opposing the execution.
“I hope my execution, that it will be the last, that people will open up,’’ Baston said Thursday. “The victims in my case didn’t want me to be executed. They wanted life without parole. That should have been respected. That should have been respected by our governor.’’
He concluded his statement by saying, “Dear Heavenly Father, I have sinned, and I repent of my sins,’’ he said. “I pray for forgiveness. As I close my eyes on the light of this world, I hope to open my eyes to the light in Heaven.’’
Baston was escorted from his cell into the death chamber at 10:04 a.m. For the first time, medical technicians inserted the intravenous shunts into someone scheduled to die while inside the execution chamber instead of doing that while inside the inmate's prison cell.
Although a curtain prevented witnesses from directly seeing that process, a court settlement provided for it to take place in the execution chamber so that Baston’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Rob Lowe, would be able to hear if Baston called out if something went wrong. He did not.
Baston appeared to demonstrate some brief discomfort during the shunt process. At the point when the drug appeared to be setting in, Baston briefly grimaced and then fell still. He took a few deep breaths and then moved no more.
“Oh, man …’’ Ron Baston cried in the witness chamber. “That is so barbaric, man.’’
His brother, Richard, held him as he sobbed. “We’ll clear his name … we’ll get justice for him,’’ he told him.
DRC spokesman Carlo Loparo again confirmed Thursday that Baston had confessed to the murder. Baston did not address the subject in his final statement beyond saying he made a “bad decision.’’
Prior to his confession, Baston claimed that “Ray Ray’’ had come to Toledo from Chicago to recruit for the Vice Lords gang and that the robbery was to be Baston’s initiation. Baston had the gun in his possession when he was arrested soon afterwards while attending a church retreat in Columbus.
Police also found clothing stolen from the store in an apartment Baston was sharing with a friend after his adoptive mother, his biological aunt, had thrown him out of the house for taking the gun.
No one from the Mah family witnessed the execution.
Just prior to the execution, Richard Baston denounced the contention that his younger brother had confessed, saying he still maintains he wasn’t the gunman. Under Ohio law, if Johnnie Baston wasn’t the shooter, there could be no death penalty.
Richard Baston characterized the confession as a “miscommunication,’’ saying his brother made the statement believing it was a test for the polygraph. The test itself was never completed.
“”He did not confess to any crime whatsoever in shooting Mr. Mah. We want that known,’’ he said.
He said his brother told him earlier that morning, “I’m at peace. I know what I did, and I know what I didn’t do.’’
Pentobarbital has typically been used to induce coma in heart patients and has been used in assisted suicides. This marked its first use as the sole method of executing an inmate in the United States.
Oklahoma has used the drug as part of a three-drug cocktail.
Ohio switched drugs after the sole U.S. manufacturer of its prior drug ceased production as it merged operations with a plant in the United Kingdom, which does not have capital punishment. The manufacturers of both drugs have denounced their use as part of executions.
Contact Jim Provance at:
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