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Two cases, two punishments raise question of what's just



Published: Tue, June 19, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



When Ohio executed Jay D, Scott last week at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville, it carried out the sentence of the court, acting in the name of justice.

Scott, 48, shot Cleveland delicatessen owner Vinney Prince, 70, in the chest, killing her after she prepared food for Scott and an accomplice. The date was May 6, 1983. He killed security guard Alexander Jones the next day at a restaurant.

Defining the victims: Following the execution, Scott's attorney said the execution had added Scott's family to the list of victims. If they are victims, they are victims not of the state, but victims of Scott's own doing. It was he who killed Mrs. Prince and Jones. It was he who created however many victims that were touched by these murders.

And if victimhood is to be extended to families, certainly the greater victims are the Prince and Jones families, who went through 18 years of uncertainty while Scott and his lawyers appealed his case through court after court after court.

Those lawyers tried unsuccessfully to argue that Scott should be spared the death penalty by reason of mental defect, schizophrenia. While the courts agreed that Scott had a mental illness, they found that it did not rise to the level that would preclude his receiving the ultimate punishment for his misdeeds.

Scott knew right from wrong. He knew actions had consequences. He acknowledged at the end of his life that his family was in pain, sending a message to them that he was "all right." The tragedy is that he didn't show such compassion for a deli owner and a security guard who were just doing their jobs when he murdered them in cold blood.

The only thing about the Scott case that causes us to question it is the specter of disparate punishment that it raises.

Two others dead: Specifically, we're thinking of another case of a person diagnosed as schizophrenic who killed two people. It's a case that hits closer to home both in geography and in time.

On May 8, 1997, Annette Giancola of Canfield drowned her 31/2-year-old twins in the family bathtub.

She, too, was charged with murder and faced the death penalty. She, too, was diagnosed as schizophrenic.

But Annette Giancola is not on death row and never will be.

She is in a psychiatric hospital, where her lawyers no longer have to fight to save her life. Indeed, Vindicator files show that her lawyers have argued that she has a right to refuse medication if she chooses, and she has filed suit against her caregivers saying, in effect, that it was their fault that she killed her children.

Two cases, four people dead -- five, counting Scott -- add up to dramatically different definitions of justice in the state of Ohio. It is difficult to understand how justice can be served in both these cases.

If Scott got the punishment he deserved -- and we believe he did -- then what did Mrs. Giancola get?




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