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Published: Wednesday, 7/25/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Court upholds death sentence

Man convicted of 2002 killing of 3-year-old, 17-year-old

BY CASEY SUMNER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Cleveland Jackson. Cleveland Jackson.
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The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence Tuesday for Cleveland R. Jackson, who was convicted in 2002 of killing a 3-year-old and 17-year-old girl during a robbery in Lima, Ohio.

The court decision, written by Judge Gilbert S. Merritt, declines to commute the sentence for Jackson, who made multiple arguments regarding jury-selection bias related to the case's pretrial media coverage, as well as bias related to certain jurors' opinions about application of the death penalty.

The decision upholds a 2008 ruling by the U.S. District Court, along with a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court in 2005. Jackson would now have to file with the U.S. Supreme Court to continue his case.

"We plan to exhaust all available legal resources," said James Jenkins, Jackson's attorney.

In 2002, Jackson and his half brother Jeronique Cunningham, who is being tried separately, entered the apartment of Loyshane Liles, to rob him of drugs and money.

They directed Liles and seven other people into the apartment's kitchen, where they robbed the victims and opened fire on them. Two people, 3-year-old Jayla Grant and17-year-old Leneshia Williams, were killed.

In the case before the 6th Circuit Court, a central claim by Jackson was that his initial trial court did not properly screen the jury for bias related to media coverage of the case, which made the judge's denial of his request to change venue a violation of constitutional due process.

Judge Merritt disagreed, citing the 1991 Supreme Court case Mu'Min v. Virginia and the 2010 case Skilling v. United States. Both cases give greater discretion to trial judges in issues of pretrial publicity and jury bias.

"Constrained by the language of these two Supreme Court opinions, we conclude that no due process violation occurred," Judge Merritt wrote.

Mr. Jenkins said he had yet to review the ruling.

"The judges' ruling should comport with the case law. We certainly respect due process," he said.

The court also upheld a previous Ohio Supreme Court decision that commuted Jackson's death sentence for Jayla Grant's killing, in agreement with Jackson's argument that the jury was improperly screened for bias regarding the death penalty's application to child murderers.

Jeronique Cunningham's case is still pending before the 6th Circuit Court. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld his death penalty sentence for both murders in 2004.



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