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Published: Monday, 9/26/2011

Ohio gov spares condemned killer who slashed woman's throat, cites facts of horrific childhood

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Gov. John Kasich speaks in the ceremonial governors office Aug. 17, 2011 at the Statehouse. Gov. John Kasich speaks in the ceremonial governors office Aug. 17, 2011 at the Statehouse.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH Enlarge

COLUMBUS— Gov. John Kasich on Monday spared a condemned inmate who slashed a woman's throat in a robbery, citing the prisoner's horrific childhood.

Kasich's decision marked the fifth time since June that an Ohio execution has been postponed or called off.

Kasich followed the recommendation of the Ohio Parole Board, which said last week Joseph Murphy should be sentenced to life without parole instead.

The board cited Murphy's childhood growing up in West Virginia in which he was beaten, starved and sexually abused.

The board also cited the Ohio Supreme Court's 1992 decision that upheld the death sentence by a 4-3 vote, a rare divided ruling in which Chief Justice Thomas Moyer voted against a death sentence for Murphy. The late Moyer, a death penalty supporter, said he knew of no other case in which a defendant "was as destined for disaster as was Joseph Murphy."

Kasich noted both Murphy's childhood and the Supreme Court ruling. He also said he agreed with the National Association of Mental Illness, which had urged him to spare Murphy.

The governor said he decided that, "considering Joseph Murphy's brutally abusive upbringing and the relatively young age at which he committed this terrible crime, the death penalty is not appropriate in this case."

Murphy, 46, was convicted of killing Ruth Predmore in Marion in 1987 in a robbery that netted her penny collection. He had threatened the 72-year-old Predmore with an extortion note several days before the crime.

Marion Prosecutor Brent Yager had opposed clemency, saying Murphy terrified Predmore before the crime, killed her brutally, then lied and made excuses about his motives.

"Murphy's crime is truly one of the worst of the worst," Yager said in a filing with the parole board last week.

In June, Kasich spared Shawn Hawkins, saying he had no doubt the inmate was involved in a 1989 double killing but that the details of his participation were "frustratingly unclear."

In July, a federal judge's ruling in another case postponed the execution that was to have followed that of Hawkins.

U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost criticized the state's execution policies as haphazard and inconsistent. Since then, Kasich postponed two additional executions scheduled for August and September while the state updates its policies.

A second legal team representing Murphy had brought a separate challenge based in part on the revelation that one of Ohio's executioners has cancer. The attorneys argued that could affect the state's ability to carry out executions, and Frost allowed them to gather information about the cancer.

Though Murphy has been spared, attorneys are certain to continue the cancer argument for the way it could affect the next execution scheduled for November.



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