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Published: Wednesday, 8/14/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Ohio sets date of execution for Lima killer in Nov., 2015

Man sprayed gunfire on 8 victims during robbery

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Cleveland Jackson killed Leneshia Williams, 17, in 2002. Cleveland Jackson killed Leneshia Williams, 17, in 2002.
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COLUMBUS — One of two men who opened fire in 2002 on eight people who were cornered in a Lima apartment kitchen, killing two girls ages 3 and 17, faces an execution date more than two years away.

The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday set Nov. 17, 2015, for the execution of Cleveland R. Jackson in the death of Leneshia Williams, 17. 

The high court has been scheduling executions at roughly the rate of one every two months with Jackson, 35, now 12th in line.

The pace of executions in Ohio has slowed considerably after an unofficial six-month moratorium linked to a federal court review of the state’s lethal-injection procedures ended last year.

A task force convened by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is examining Ohio’s administrative death-penalty law, but she has made it clear the question of whether Ohio should have capital punishment is not on the panel’s menu.

Justice William M. O’Neill, elected last year, cast the sole dissenting vote against setting an execution date. 

He stated in a prior case that he believes Ohio’s death penalty is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

Jackson and his half-brother, Jeronique D. Cunningham, went to the apartment of Loyshane Liles on Jan. 3, 2002, to rob him after purchasing crack cocaine from him earlier in the day.

The pair then forced him and seven others into the kitchen, robbed them, and then opened fire on them at close range. They hit all of them. Jayla Grant, 3, and Miss Williams died from head wounds.

No guns were recovered, but the testimony of the survivors helped to convict both.

The Ohio Supreme Court later upheld Jackson’s convictions in both deaths. But it struck down the death sentence related to the 3-year-old victim because the trial court had refused to allow Jackson’s lawyer to question jurors before the trial as to whether they were biased in favor of the death penalty in cases involving child murder victims.

Jackson was later resentenced in Allen County Common Pleas Court to life without parole in Jayla’s killing, but the death penalty for Miss Williams’ murder stands.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his final appeal earlier this year. He is part of pending litigation challenging the state’s execution protocol, but he has not received a stay in U.S. District Court in relation to that case.

James Jenkins, one of Jackson’s attorneys in Cleveland, said they will explore every avenue to prevent the execution, although all appeals have run their course.

“It just doesn’t seem right. If you throw out one [sentence], it should be good law for the other,” he said, referring to the state Supreme Court overturning the death sentence related to the 3-year-old’s shooting, but not the 17-year-old victim.

Allen County Prosecutor Juergen A. Waldick office did not return a call for comment.

The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the death sentences in both killings for Cunningham, but no execution date has been set. Cunningham had claimed that the gun he held was inoperable and instead accused his half-brother. Cunningham marked his 41st birthday in prison on Tuesday.

Jackson and Cunningham are on death row in the Chillicothe Correctional Institution on aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, robbery, and other convictions. The execution chamber is located about 30 miles away at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville.

Ohio has executed 51 inmates since it resumed carrying out the death penalty in 1999. There are 140 people on death row.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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