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Published: Thursday, 5/8/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

Area man to remain on death row, Ohio Supreme Court says

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Calvin C. Neyland, Jr., in 2008. Calvin C. Neyland, Jr., in 2008.
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COLUMBUS — Calvin C. Neyland, Jr. is Wood County's sole inmate on death row, and the Ohio Supreme Court today said he should stay there.

By a vote of 5-2, the court upheld Neyland's convictions for two 2007 workplace killings at Liberty Transportation trucking company in Perrysburg Township during a meeting in which Neyland, a trucker, was about to be fired because of his increasingly erratic behavior.

Neyland shot Douglas Smith, 44, his Sylvania Township branch manager, and the company's corporate safety director, Thomas Lazar, 58, of Belle Vernon, Pa., whom Mr. Smith had asked to attend the Aug. 8, 2007 meeting.

The court's majority rejected Neyland's arguments that the death penalty is unconstitutional and his claim that he was mentally ill at the time of the killings and should not have been found competent to stand trial. While the court agreed that the prosecution should not have been allowed to present evidence to the jury of other weapons and ammunition not connected to the crime that were found in Neyland's motel room and a storage unit, it found that was harmless error that did not lead the jury to impose a death sentence.

"Nothing in the nature and circumstances of the offenses appears to be mitigating," wrote Justice Sharon Kennedy for the majority. "Neyland shot and killed two officials at Liberty Transportation who were about to fire him. Neyland left notes in his storage unit before the shootings occurred that indicated his intent to carry out these offenses.

"These offenses establish horrific crimes that lack any mitigating features," she wrote. "Neyland’s character offers little in mitigation."

She was joined in the majority by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Justices Judith Lanzinger, Terrence O'Donnell, and Judith French.

But Justices Paul Pfeifer and William O'Neill dissented.

Although he opposes Ohio's death penalty, Justice Pfeifer has voted to uphold death sentences under the law. In this case, he agreed Neyland was guilty but found his mental state should have taken the death penalty off the table.

Justice O'Neill, however, believes the death penalty to be unconstitutional and routinely refuses to vote to set execution dates.

"But the unconstitutionality and inhumanity of capital punishment are even clearer when it is imposed on the mentally ill, such as Calvin Neyland," he wrote in his dissenting opinion. "It is plain that the families of Douglas Smith and Thomas Lazar have suffered tremendously at Neyland’s hands, and they deserve to see Neyland punished. But I cannot support the proposition that it is a just punishment to take the life of a man whose delusions of persecution led him to commit the horrible acts for which he was convicted."

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



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