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Published: Friday, 8/14/2009

Strickland denies mercy in murder-for-hire case


COLUMBUS, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland denied clemency Friday for the triggerman in a 1995 murder-for-hire scheme, overriding the state parole board's recommendation for mercy.

Jason Getsy has been scheduled to die Tuesday for the shooting death of Ann Serafino in northwest Ohio.

"It's remarkably disappointing that the governor doesn't the follow the considered recommendation of his parole board," Getsy's attorney, David Stebbins, said. "This is their job, to review these things and make recommendations."

The board voted 5-2 last month in a rare ruling in favor of clemency, concerned that the man who orchestrated the crime, John Santine, was sentenced to 35 years to life in prison, while Getsy received the harsher death penalty.

Ohio has executed 31 men since reinstating the death penalty in 1981. The parole board has recommended clemency just three times.

Strickland said Santine's lesser sentence wasn't enough by itself to justify commuting Getsy's sentence.

"Getsy's sentence was based on his conduct, and based upon our review, which included consideration of the differing Santine and Getsy sentences, I do not believe executive clemency is warranted," Strickland said.

Prosecutors had criticized the parole board's ruling, saying it could set a dangerous legal precedent in any death penalty cases where more than one person was involved in a slaying.

Getsy, 33, was convicted of shooting 68-year-old Serafino in her home in Hubbard near Youngstown on July 7, 1995, during a crime that targeted her son, Charles Serafino.

Charles Serafino, who was shot seven times, survived the attack and pressed for Getsy's execution.

"It's not going to change my life, but it's justice for my mother and that's what she deserves," 53-year-old Charles Serafino told The Associated Press on Friday. "He doesn't deserve to live. He has to pay for what he did."

Santine offered Getsy $5,000 to have Charles Serafino, then 39, and any witnesses killed in a dispute over ownership of a landscaping business.

Getsy also had a 1992 negligent homicide conviction in the Russian roulette death of a 14-year-old companion.

Getsy has a remaining appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Ohio's lethal injection system.

Friday's decision was not the first time Strickland overruled his parole board. In 2008, he commuted the death sentence of convicted killer John Spirko over concerns about evidence linking Spirko to the 1982 killing of a northwest Ohio postmistress.

The parole board had twice voted against mercy for Spirko.

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