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Published: Tuesday, 9/13/2005

Appeal lost, Spirko attempts again to beat execution order

Spirko Spirko

COLUMBUS - John Spirko, facing execution on Nov. 15 for kidnapping and murdering a Van Wert County postmaster, turned again to a Cincinnati-based appeals court for help yesterday.

Spirko, 59, filed an appeal with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking it to overturn last week's decision refusing to open a new round of appeals by U.S. District Court Judge James Carr in Toledo. Spirko's lawyers argued that prosecutors had perpetrated a fraud on the court by withholding information when the court originally upheld his conviction and death sentence in 2000.

Gov. Bob Taft delayed Spirko's execution last week at the request of the Ohio Parole Board to give it time to hold another clemency hearing after the board learned the attorney general's office had apparently misstated facts of the case during the first hearing on Aug. 23.

The board voted 6-3 to recommend that Mr. Taft not grant Spirko either a full pardon or a delay of execution for the 1982 stabbing of Betty Jane "Janie" Mottinger following a robbery of the post office in the tiny village of Elgin. The new clemency hearing will be held Oct. 12.

The 6th Circuit has previously upheld Spirko's conviction. In his latest appeal before Judge Carr, Spirko's attorneys argued that the state failed to inform the court in 2000 that it had presented a theory of the crime to the jury at Spirko's 1984 trial that it had reason to believe was wrong.

The jury convicted Spirko of acting with former cellmate Delaney Gibson to kill Mrs. Mottinger, but Gibson was never tried, and the county prosecutor quietly dropped the indictment late last year even though Gibson was paroled from a Kentucky prison on an unrelated murder conviction.

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