COLUMBUS — A condemned killer was so malnourished as a child that his stomach was swollen and distended, and he frequently had to steal food for himself and his younger sister, attorneys trying to stop his execution next week argued to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dennis McGuire was physically abused by at least four different parental figures and shows signs of brain damage from head trauma, the attorneys said in filings late Wednesday with the high court.
McGuire, 53, is scheduled to die Jan. 16 for the rape and fatal stabbing of Joy Stewart in 1989 in Preble County in western Ohio. Stewart, 22, who was newly married, was about eight months pregnant at the time.
The filings blame poor legal help for McGuire during his trial, saying jurors who sentenced him to death never got to hear the full extent of his chaotic childhood because McGuire’s attorneys didn’t properly investigate reasons he should be spared.
Instead of conducting a proper investigation, the attorneys chose “to rely instead on residual doubt and on truncated testimony from a few witnesses in addition to McGuire’s unsworn statement,” McGuire’s current lawyers argue.
Even without the full picture of McGuire’s life, a juror held out for 12 hours before relenting, a sign that a full investigation might have led to a different outcome, the lawyers said. In Ohio, one juror can block a death sentence by voting against it.
A message seeking comment was left with the Ohio attorney general’s office, which is expected to oppose the filing.
The state plans to use a never-tried lethal injection method on McGuire, which the inmate has challenged in a separate court case. A federal judge scheduled a hearing for those arguments Friday.
McGuire’s attorneys say the two-drug combination will subject McGuire to “agony and terror” as he struggles to try to breathe.