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Published: Thursday, 3/10/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Man put to death for slaying of Toledo merchant

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

Baston was executed Thursday. Baston was executed Thursday.
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LUCASVILLE — Johnnie Roy Baston became America's first inmate executed solely by a massive overdose of the powerful anesthetic pentobarbital Thursday morning.

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.


 

While admittingly participating in a robbery of Mr. Mah, Baston had maintained for 17 years that a man he knew only by the name of “Ray Ray’’ was the one who killed the victim in the back of his store. But the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said Baston on Friday confessed to the slaying after his family and legal team had arranged for a polygraph test in hopes of improving his chances for gubernatorial clemency.

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:
jprovance@theblade.com
or 614-221-0496.

BRouted to airfare11-BIZ-NEWS by BRAKNI at Mar 10, 2011 1:25:51 PM

C-US--Airlines-Fares,1st Ld-Writethru
Eds: Adds details on other airlines, previous fare increases, higher fees by JetBlue, American.
American Airlines raises US fares $10 per round trip, other airlines considering it
By DAVID KOENIG
AP Airlines Writer
DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines is raising U.S. base fares $10 per round trip.
If the increase sticks, it would be the seventh broad price hike this year by U.S. airlines, which say they need more revenue to offset rising fuel prices.
American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith confirmed that his airline raised prices Wednesday night. Delta said it was studying the move but had not matched American yet.
Two low-cost carriers, JetBlue Airways and AirTran Airways, said they had not raised prices. United, Continental and Southwest did not immediately comment on their plans.
American’s latest fare increase also extended to Hawaii and Canada, where round-trip tickets rose by up to $21.
Airlines are also boosting fees. In the last two weeks, JetBlue raised the charge for checking a second bag to $35 from $30, and American upped the cost of making a flight reservation by phone to $25 from $20.
The Consumer Travel Alliance said Thursday that passengers paid U.S. airlines more than $9.2 billion in fees last year — an average of $36.80 per round trip — and many of the charges weren’t disclosed to passengers when they bought their tickets.
The frequent fare increases so far in 2011 are reminiscent of 2008, when airlines pushed through many price hikes to keep up with skyrocketing fuel costs.
Rick Seaney, CEO of travel website FareCompare.com, said if the pattern of 2008 holds, the airlines may attempt weekly raises through the end of April.
In most cases this year, the five so-called network airlines — United, Continental, Delta, American and US Airways — have quickly matched each other’s price increases. The low-cost airlines have sometimes balked, which forces the network airlines to scale back prices on routes where they compete with Southwest or other low-cost airlines.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said this week that fare increases aren’t keeping up with fuel prices, and he’s not afraid that higher fares will drive passengers away. He noted that even after several fare hikes, Southwest’s February traffic rose 13 percent over the same month last year.
Kelly said Southwest is on pace to spend $1.3 billion more on fuel than in 2010, when its bill came to $3.6 billion. That was 33 percent of all costs, just behind labor as Southwest’s top expense.


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