Wednesday 2 February 2011

Killer asks Governor to spare his life

PhotoCOLUMBUS -- The family of Johnnie Baston's victim doesn't want him executed, so neither should the state of Ohio, Baston's attorneys will argue Thursday in hopes of convincing Gov. John Kasich to show him mercy.

Baston, 36, faces lethal injection on March 10, the first person to be subjected to Ohio's newest execution method of a single massive overdose of the barbiturate pentobarbital. Ohio would become the only state in the nation to use that method.

"I was opposed to Mr. Baston receiving a death sentence at the time of his trial…," reads an affidavit filed with the Ohio Parole Board on Baston's behalf by Peter Mah, the victim's son from Illinois. "My family and I are opposed to Mr. Baston being executed."

Baston's attorneys compare this case to that of Jeffrey D. Hill, convicted and sentenced to death in the 1991 stabbing murder of his mother, Emma Hill, in Cincinnati. Former Gov. Ted Strickland and the parole board cited the victim's family's wishes opposing execution when commuting Hill's sentence to 25 years to life with the possibility of parole. In that case, the victim's family and the defendant's family were one and the same.

Chong Hoon Mah, the 53-year-old South Korean immigrant and owner of downtown Toledo's Continental Wigs-n-Things, was shot in the back of the head execution style during a March 21, 1994, robbery of his shop.

Two attorneys working as assistant Lucas County prosecutors at the time of the trial filed affidavits noting that the family told them that they would prefer to see Baston spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole. That sentencing option wasn't available to the three-judge panel that presided over his trial.

A response to the clemency petition filed this week by Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates and Attorney General Mike DeWine's office said Mr. Baston continued to refuse to accept responsibility for Mr. Mah's murder during his interview with the board last week.

"In short, nothing has changed," it reads. "Mr. Mah's family maintains an opposition to a death sentence, and Baston continues to refuse to accept responsibility or express remorse. These factors were known to the three-judge panel who sentenced Baston to death more than 15 years ago and do not present viable grounds for a recommendation for clemency today."

No member of the Mah family is expected to testify at Thursday's hearing for either side. Several members of Baston's family, however, will make their appeals to the board.

Baston's attorneys will argue that he was abused as a child by his birth family and never truly felt a part of his new family when an aunt adopted him. They will make the case that this murder was not the worst of the worst for which the death penalty was designed.

They also will claim that death sentences in Lucas County have been disproportionately imposed on black defendants, representing 72.7 percent of the county's 21 death sentences since 1981.

"Disparate treatment of individuals underscores the arbitrary application of the death penalty based on factors such as race," the petition reads. "It appears that race does play a part as to who gets the death penalty in Lucas County. Johnnie Baston deserves clemency."

The petition reads that Baston "accepts that he must pay for his actions at Wigs-n-Things and the resulting death of Mr. Mah." It also states that he is "genuinely and deeply sorry" for being a part of the robbery in which Mr. Mah was shot in the back of the head with a Colt .45-caliber gun.

After being arrested in Columbus a few days after the murder, Baston admitted to participating in the robbery, and he was caught with the gun used in the slaying. Police also found stolen items in his apartment.

But he claimed that an accomplice named "Ray" was with him that day and took Mr. Mah into the rear of the store and shot him with Baston's gun.

Police never found "Ray" and prosecutors proceeded with the theory that Baston acted alone.

 Jim Provance

No comments:

Post a Comment