COLUMBUS - Attorneys for death-row inmate Jay D. Scott asked Governor Taft yesterday to spare his life, asserting that the convicted killer is mentally ill and court-appointed lawyers bungled his 1984 trial in Cleveland.
Scott is on death row for the murder of Vinnie Price, owner of a Cleveland delicatessen, during a robbery on May 6, 1983. Scott is set to be executed April 17 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
He would become the first person executed in Ohio since Feb. 19, 1999, when the state carried out the death penalty on Wilford Berry for the robbery and murder of a Cleveland bakery owner. Unlike Scott, Berry waived his appeals and volunteered for the death penalty. Berry was the first person executed in Ohio since 1963.
The parole board will forward its recommendation to Mr. Taft. The governor's legal adviser, William Klatt, has begun to analyze Scott's clemency request, said Kevin Kellems, Mr. Taft's press secretary.
Joe Case, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office, said he expects Scott's attorneys will file court papers shortly before the execution date so experts can analyze whether he is competent to be executed. That move likely would put Scott's execution on hold.
Scott, 48, should receive clemency because the jury at his 1984 trial in Cuyahoga County did not hear any “mitigating evidence” about his troubled childhood, said Scott's attorneys, Timothy Sweeney and John Pyle.
It took the jury 20 minutes to return a guilty verdict in Scott's trial. As the jury then considered whether Scott should get the death sentence, his attorneys tried to show there was some doubt about his guilt instead of outlining a childhood scarred by an abusive father and poverty.
“... This decision was simply baffling,” Scott's attorneys wrote.
As Scott grew up in Cleveland, his father spent his wages on alcohol and gambling, leaving his wife and 10 children with little for food, shelter, or clothing, according to testimony at 1991 court hearings. Scott was 14 when he was convicted of breaking into a food store, and he spent most of his teen years in juvenile detention facilities.
Court records show that Scott's father fired a gun at his son's feet “to get his attention,” and stabbed Scott's mother when the boy was 11. Both of Scott's parents are dead.
Scott has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Mr. Sweeney said.
In December, 1974, while in prison after his conviction on robbery and escape charges, Scott was diagnosed as “apparently psychotic.”
Nearly two decades later, psychologist Newton Jackson wrote that Scott's behavior had become “increasingly bizarre.”
Scott's mental condition and his 1984 trial are issues that the parole board can consider in its recommendation to Mr. Taft, said Joe Andrews, a spokesman for the state prison system.
“Rather than senselessly extinguishing his life, he should be placed in an appropriate security facility for the rest of his life, where he can continue to receive treatment for his severe mental illness,” Mr. Sweeney said.
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