COLUMBUS — A death row inmate who raped and killed his girlfriend’s daughter doesn’t deserve mercy, the Ohio Parole Board said today, moving him one step closer to execution under the state’s new, untested lethal injection process.
The board by a unanimous vote rejected arguments raised by attorneys for Ronald Phillips that he was sexually, physically and verbally abused during childhood.
The board said it wasn’t convinced that Phillips has accepted responsibility for his crimes or changed for the better in prison. It also said evidence of his childhood abuse was not clear.
“Phillips’s crime is clearly among the worst of the worst capital crimes. Its depravity is self-evident,” the board said. “Words cannot convey the barbarity of the crime. It is simply unconscionable.”
If his execution proceeds, Phillips would be the first person to die under the state’s new execution procedures. They allow Ohio to continue using the sedative pentobarbital in a dose obtained from a specialty pharmacy that produces non-FDA-regulated batches of medicine for specific patients.
If that option isn’t available, the state will move to an untried method of two other drugs — the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone — injected intravenously.
The warden at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, which houses death row, will determine by Nov. 1 whether the state has a usable supply of pentobarbital from a so-called compounding pharmacy. Ohio’s previous supply expired last month. Its manufacturer has made it off-limits to executions in the future, a move that doesn’t affect the production of small supplies of the drug by compounding pharmacies.
A federal judge is reviewing Ohio’s new method, and legal challenges are expected.
Phillips, 40, is scheduled to die Nov. 14 for raping and killing Sheila Marie Evans in Akron in 1993 after a long period of frequent abuse.
No judge or jury ever heard the full story of the abuse suffered by Phillips, which included being repeatedly raped and beaten by his late father, according to a document filed with the board ahead of his Oct. 16 clemency hearing.
“Ronald Phillips is not and was not a monster,” his attorneys said in the filing. “Ronald Phillips instead was a 19-year-old high school student, who had experienced nothing but violence, chaos, and abuse, and who learned through those life experiences that violence and abuse were the norm.”
The state says Phillips long denied suffering the type of abuse he now alleges. Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh says Phillips is raising it only now with his execution imminent. She urged the board to reject the claim.
“It is curious that the disclosures have been made now, on the eve of his execution and after his father’s death,” Walsh said in a response to Phillips’ clemency plea, also filed with the parole board.
Phillips’ attorneys say he was only able to reveal the abuse recently to them and to two psychologists.
Gov. John Kasich has the final say.
Phillips’ father, Williams Phillips Sr., died in 2009. His mother, Donna Phillips, declined to discuss the allegations against her late husband, who she acknowledged could be “stern.”
She said her son is sorry for what happened.