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Published: Thursday, 4/15/2004

'Buried alive' death sentence upheld

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday unanimously upheld Archie J. Dixon's conviction and death sentence for severely beating 22-year-old Christopher Hammer and burying him alive in 1993.

The court rejected Dixon's argument that his confession was tainted because police began questioning him on a related forgery charge without reading him his rights.

Hours later, after co-conspirator Timothy Hoffner led them to Mr. Hammer's Sylvania Township grave, police questioned Dixon again. They read him his rights and he confessed.

Dixon, now 30, and Hoffner, 31, were convicted of aggravated murder, kidnapping, and aggravated robbery and are incarcerated on death row at Mansfield Correctional Institution.

Dixon's girlfriend, Kirsten Wilkerson, pleaded guilty to kidnapping, testified against the two men, and was granted early release from prison in 1998.

Police intentionally did not read Dixon his rights during the first interview because they knew from experience he would shut down the conversation.

This prompted Lucas County Common Pleas Judge William Skow to throw out the confession garnered from the second interview because it resulted from a process that began in bad faith with the first interview.

The 6th District Court of Appeals reversed that ruling, allowing Dixon's confession to be heard at trial.

The Supreme Court, in agreeing with the appeals panel, noted that Dixon signed a waiver of his rights during the second interview and that, after learning Hoffner had led police to the body, made it clear he wanted to cooperate.

"He assented that he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and that no deals or promises had been made in exchange for his confession," wrote Justice Paul Pfeifer. "The entire interview lasted approximately half an hour, there was no evidence of mistreatment, and Dixon remained calm and collected throughout."

While finding that Judge Skow erred in not allowing Dixon to present the fact that he had once been wrongfully imprisoned on a rape charge, the high court determined that arguments supporting the death penalty still outweighed those against it.

"We learned from the testimony that they let [Mr. Hammer] smoke a last cigarette, wrapped him up, stuffed a rag down his throat, and hog-tied him," said J. Christopher Anderson, the assistant county prosecutor who tried the case.

"He got one leg free and was screaming, so one of them stood on his legs and the other stood on his head," he said.

Dixon's attorney, Jeffrey Gamso, said he would ask the court to reconsider its ruling and, failing that, seek an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. He noted the nation's high court heard a similar case in December but has yet to rule.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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