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Published: Monday, 11/15/2010

Strickland stays execution of man who killed girl, 3

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio's governor spared the life of a man facing execution Tuesday for killing a 3-year-old, in part because the convict had an undiagnosed medical condition that led to developmental disabilities and large breasts as a child.

Sidney Cornwell's sentence will be commuted to life without the possibility of parole, Gov. Ted Strickland said Monday.

The Ohio Parole Board had recommended against mercy for Cornwell, but Strickland said jurors might have chosen a different sentence if they'd known of the condition, called Klinefelter Syndrome. The condition caused Cornwell to develop motor and language skills late and gave him large breasts as a boy, which led to repeated teasing.

Cornwell, 33, of Youngstown, was scheduled to die by injection Tuesday for the 1996 killing of Jessica Ballew, who was shot to death as Cornwell and other Crips gang members were hunting for a member of a rival gang.

Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said he did not believe Cornwell deserved mercy.

“Although I disagree with the governor's decision, I respect his right to make that decision,” Gains said.

Public defenders for Cornwell had cited the medical condition in seeking mercy. They also said Cornwell was abused by his father and fell under the influence of gangs as a teenager.

Seventeen men have been put to death since Strickland took office in 2007. Cornwell is the third death row inmate that Strickland has spared this year.

In September, Strickland cited “legitimate questions” about evidence used to convict Kevin Keith, though he said he believed the inmate committed the crimes of which he was accused. In June, he also spared Richard Nields, who strangled his girlfriend during an argument, because of court decisions that questioned the appropriateness of a death sentence.



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