Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Editorial: Revisiting the Spirko case and Spirko says he doesn't expect fair clemency hearing

Revisiting the Spirko case
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Death row inmate John Spirko will not face his scheduled execution later this month. His time on death row has been extended by at least 56 days.
Last week, Gov. Bob Taft ordered a new clemency hearing for Spirko after the Ohio Parole Board took the unprecedented step of asking for a chance to reconsider his case.
Given the significant doubts surrounding Spirko's capital conviction, one can only wonder why Taft didn't simply commute the death sentence to life without the possibility of parole. At least one outside legal expert calls the Spirko case the "weakest" death penalty conviction he's ever seen.
As this page has said before, Spirko is not a sympathetic character. His long criminal record - which includes murder - has caused him to spend virtually his entire adult life in prison. But he may well have not committed the murder for which he received the death penalty. The evidence against him is flimsy.
That is why the parole board's decision to reconsider the case is both moral and just. Killing criminals is not a solution to America's crime problem. And the willful killing of criminals whose convictions are overshadowed by reasonable doubts is simply immoral.
If the state built its case against Spirko on lies, as some evidence suggests, the parole authority must carefully search for the truth. In the meantime, if Taft harbors doubts about this case, he should be prepared to use his power to grant clemency and reduce Spirko's sentence.

Spirko says he doesn't expect fair clemency hearing

By Tom Beyerlein
Dayton Daily News
DAYTON Death row inmate John Spirko told the Dayton Daily News that he doesn't expect to get a fair hearing on his request for clemency in the 1982 stabbing death of rural postmistress Betty Jane Mottinger.
Spirko, who claims innocence, said he's a threat to the justice system "as long as I'm alive."
"I'm a danger to them because I'm innocent," he said. "I'm a danger to the system because they don't want to admit that."
Spirko, 59, was to die by lethal injection next Tuesday, but Gov. Bob Taft postponed the execution to Nov. 15 to give himself and the parole board extra time to consider clemency.
Spirko called the board's unprecedented decision to have a complete rehearing of his case just window dressing.
The new hearing, set for Oct. 12 in Columbus, is just designed "to dot the i's and cross the t's," Spirko said


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