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Published: Saturday, 4/7/2001

Death-row inmate appeals to Taft

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - The Ohio Parole Board yesterday recommended that Governor Taft deny death-row inmate Jay Scott's request for clemency.

The decision moves Scott one step closer to his execution scheduled for April 17. Scott would be only the second person executed in Ohio since 1963. Wilford Berry was executed by lethal injection in 1999 for the murder and robbery of a Cleveland bakery owner.

Scott, 48, is on death row for the murder of 75-year-old Vinnie Prince, owner of a Cleveland delicatessen, during a robbery on May 6, 1983.

The parole board's 10-1 decision said the diagnosis of Scott as a schizophrenic does not justify reducing his death sentence to life in prison without parole.

“... this serious mental illness is controlled through medication and does not render the inmate, in the opinion of the board, incompetent,” the board's report said.

The parole board described Scott's adjustment to prison as “extremely poor.”

Scott stabbed an inmate at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield in 1973, stabbed an inmate in 1981 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, and was chief negotiator when death-row inmates in 1985 took two guards hostage.

The sole dissenter, board member Sandra A. Mack, said four jurors at Scott's 1984 trial said he might not have received the death penalty if his court-appointed attorneys had outlined Scott's troubled childhood.

As Scott grew up in Cleveland, his father spent his wages on alcohol and gambling, leaving his wife and 10 children with little for good shelter or clothing, court records show. Scott was 14 when he was convicted of breaking into a food store, and he spent most of his teen years in juvenile-jails.

“Taking the life of Jay D. Scott does not in any way restore the life of the victim,” wrote Ms. Mack, a former state prison employee and professor at Central State University. “It only sends a message to society and to our children that if you kill someone, the state will kill you.”

Ms. Mack said Scott “continues to be a threat to everyone, yet his life and all life is of value in the eyes of God. Punish him, yes, keep him from society for the rest of his life, but temper the punishment with mercy.”

Governor Taft said yesterday that he and his counsel, William Klatt, will review the parole board's recommendation and Scott's request for clemency.

“I need to see the record. I need to get a recommendation and some information from our counsel. I'll be working very hard over the weekend on it,” he said.

Tim Sweeney, a Cleveland attorney representing Scott, said he was encouraged that Ms. Mack dissented in the parole board's recommendation.

“We're still hopeful that the governor will see it that way too,” he said.

Mr. Sweeney said he visited Scott on death row at the Mansfield Correctional Institution about a week ago.

“He is exhibiting the type of flat and emotionless demeanor that I understand people with schizophrenia typically exhibit,” he said.

The U.S. National Alliance for the Mentally Ill maintains that the death sentence is “never appropriate for a defendant suffering from schizophrenia or other serious brain disorders.”

“It is still possible for one person to show mercy to Scott,” said Jim Tobin, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio. “That person is not a juror, but the governor who has the power by law to grant clemency and the moral responsibility to choose life when there are compelling reasons to do so.”



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