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Taft is asked for death penalty moratorium



Published: Sun, February 10, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Taft is asked for death penalty moratorium

EDITOR:

We urge Gov. Taft to decree a moratorium on the death penalty in time to spare the life of John Byrd. The Republican governor of Illinois decreed such a moratorium. We believe John Byrd's case demonstrates that there are compelling reasons for a moratorium in Ohio.

It is not "beyond a reasonable doubt" that John Byrd was the murderer of Monte Tewksbury. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was closely divided when it reviewed Byrd's case in 2000, before it was known that John Brewer had confessed to being the killer

In his dissent, Youngstown's own Nathaniel Jones, now the most outspoken judge in this case, gives the reasons to support his conclusion that it is "beyond refutation that the state secured Byrd's death sentence in contravention of fundamental constitutional guarantees of due process, fundamental fairness, and effective assistance of counsel."

At a recent hearing before a magistrate to consider Byrd's actual innocence claim, the hearing turned on the conduct of the public defender, not the innocence of John Byrd. Again, counsel did not provide John Byrd with effective assistance.

John Byrd was found guilty and sentenced to death by a jury who believed uncorroborated testimony of "snitch" . Ron ald Armstead ,who did not witness the crime. He was a jailhouse informant facing the possibility of serving another three to 15 years in prison Armstead was permitted to make statements that, Judge Jones says, the prosecution knew or should have known were false or misleading. After Armstead testified, he was released.

Judge Jones found that "Armstead's testimony provided the only meaningful distinction between Byrd and co-defendant John Brewer, who was not charged with Tewksbury's murder. Moreover, the state did not present any witnesses who corroborated Armstead's testimony."

Where DNA evidence is not available to show that the accused was not the murderer, it is even more important that snitch testimony be regarded as unreliable unless it can be corroborated from reliable sources.

Prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel should not be allowed to result in the execution of a man who is not the killer. Judge Jones found that it was improper for the prosecution to vouch "for Armstead's credibility and the importing of facts not in evidence in the closing argument."

The failure of the public defender to come forth with affidavits by John Brewer at an earlier stage in the litigation, whether for good reasons or not, was compounded by the controversy over the conduct of the public defender at the hearing before a magistrate that resulted in the denial of further inquiry into John Byrd's innocence. John Byrd should not be executed because of the shortcomings of his counsel and his family's lack of resources to hire the best this country has to offer.

John Byrd's case is not unique. There are others on death row who are there based on snitch testimony by witnesses who received something of value in return for their testimony. There are others who could not hire the best defense counsel.

Once a man is executed, it is too late to look back at the failings of the system in his case. The time to declare a moratorium is now.

ALICE and STAUGHTON LYND

Niles

It's a necessity for Judge Wells to rein in Traficant

EDITOR:

For the first time since Sept. 11, I actually stopped in my tracks while picking up my newspaper to read about Judge Wells' admonition to our moronic representative in Congress. Bravo! This judge appears to be prepared to nip in the bud any shenanigans this junkyard dog might use to attempt to disrupt the decorum of the courtroom proceedings. While it remains to be seen whether the government is ready or not, it is apparent that the jurist overseeing this case is on top of the situation and will not stand for the disruptive demeanor that Traficant is known to propagate.

I, like many other Mahoning Valley citizens, have patiently waited for this poor excuse of a publicly elected official to be brought to justice. I am proud to see that legitimate and legal procedure will be followed in Judge Wells' courtroom. This "trial of the century" is off to a very positive start. Donnybrook indeed.

Give it up, Jimbo.

CARL WESCH

Boardman

Help Youth for Justice stop tobacco's scourge

EDITOR:

We are the Youth for Justice Team at Volney Rogers Junior High School, a group sponsored by Ohio Center for Law-Related Education. The group chooses an issue, creates an action plan and carries the plan out. Our concern is tobacco use among teens.

Tobacco is the only legal drug, that when used as directed, causes death. It causes more deaths than alcohol, AIDS, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined. In fact, approximately 19,500 people die each year from tobacco in Ohio, By Jan. 29, 2002, 61,237 kids had become regular smokers in 2002. Kids use tobacco first at an average age of 13, or at the end of the 6th grade. Each year, kids smoke more than one billion cigarettes, costing them $962 million.

We have worked with Rep. Sylvester Patton of Youngstown, who introduced House Bill 237 for us. House Bill 237 says that if a youth purchases tobacco, the clerk's fine will be tripled if he or she sells the tobacco from in front of the counter. We want House Bill 237 to pass because we believe that if the fine is tripled, it will encourage store owners to place tobacco products behind the counter, making it harder for youth to purchase tobacco.

Please help us with this cause, by writing to the Criminal Justice Committee, Ohio House of Representatives, 77 S. High St., Columbus, Ohio, Ann Womer Benjamin, chairperson, and encourage the members to pass this bill.

MONICA MILLER and the members of the Youth for Justice Team at Volney Rogers Junior High School

Youngstown

X In addition to Monica, the letter was signed by Steve Bevan, Ashley Koval, Terra Koontz, Kayla Griffin and Michael Lord.

LTV salaried employees deserve severance pay

EDITOR:

LTV Steel is again asking for retention bonuses for key employees. I was a salaried employee of LTV for 28 years and received nothing at termination. Instead of bonuses to employees who are fortunate enough to still be employed, why not distribute the money to the salaried employees as the six-month severance pay that they deserve and had been promised when originally employed.

I do not know how to contact Judge Bodoh, but if you know how to forward my opinion, please do so.

WALTER KLEINPETER

Brunswick




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