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DEATH PENALTY CASE

Clemency rejected for Ohio murderer

Prosecutor pleads for mercy

COLUMBUS — A condemned Cleveland killer moved one step closer to execution Tuesday despite a rare plea for mercy from the prosecutor in his case and support from nearly half of a board that previously voted unanimously against him.

The Ohio Parole Board voted 6-4 to turn down a request for clemency for Billy Slagle, sentenced to die for stabbing a neighbor 17 times almost three decades ago.

The entire board ruled against clemency two years ago for Slagle, but that was before Tim McGinty was elected Cuyahoga County prosecutor and changed his office’s approach to capital punishment.

Mr. McGinty, applying new criteria to old and new death penalty cases, has said he doesn’t believe his office could obtain a death sentence for Slagle today. Mr. McGinty is pushing for life without parole, arguing that without that option in 1987, jurors chose the only option before them: a death sentence.

Slagle was convicted in the death that year of Mari Anne Pope, who was killed while two young children she was watching were in the house.

“The egregious nature of Slagle’s crime and circumstances surrounding it outweigh the mitigation present here,” the parole board wrote in Tuesday’s ruling, which called the slaying “unprovoked, merciless, and completely senseless.”

Mr. McGinty said he respected the board’s decision but added in a statement: “We will continue to make our position known to Gov. John Kasich. ...”

Attorneys for Slagle, now 44, have said that his sentence should be commuted to life without parole.

They cited that at 18, he was the minimum age for execution in Ohio and had a history of drug and alcohol abuse.

In 1996, Ohio law changed to allow jurors to choose between execution and life without parole. In 2005, a provision was added to allow prosecutors to pursue life without parole in nondeath penalty cases.

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