High court: Death sentence stands
The Youngstown man had an affair with the victim's ex-wife.
By MICHELE C. HLADIK
COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld Nathaniel Jackson's conviction and death sentence for the death of a Howland Township man four years ago.
"Upon our independent assessment, the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt the aggravating circumstances in this case: that Nathaniel Jackson murdered Robert Fingerhut while committing aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery," Justice Judith Lanzinger wrote.
Jackson was convicted and sentenced to death for killing Fingerhut in 2001.
Court documents say Jackson and Fingerhut's ex-wife, Donna Roberts, began an affair during Jackson's incarceration in the Lorain Correctional Institution and developed a plan to kill Fingerhut.
The plan was to take Fingerhut from his home and kill him at a different location, but the plan went awry when Fingerhut fought back. Jackson of Youngstown shot and killed Fingerhut in the home Fingerhut still shared with Roberts.
Jackson reportedly stole Fingerhut's car which was later recovered in Youngstown.
The court referred to excerpts from several of the 284 letters and 19 recorded phone calls between Jackson, then 29, and Roberts, then 57, during his incarceration before Fingerhut's murder. Roberts also has been sentenced to death for her role in the crime.
What justice wrote
"Many of the letters and conversations were sexually graphic, describing the couple's plans after Jackson's release," Justice Lanzinger wrote. "The couple used veiled terms in their letters and conversations to discuss how they would deal with Fingerhut once Jackson was out of prison."
During oral arguments last May, Jackson's lawyers argued there were numerous problems with the case, including ineffectiveness of counsel.
Lawyers also argued the statements Jackson made after his arrest in which he admitted killing Fingerhut shouldn't have been allowed since he eventually refused to say more until he spoke to a lawyer.
Justice Lanzinger, however, wrote, "Here, we find that Jackson's alleged request for counsel was neither clear nor unambiguous. Because Jackson's words 'I talked to a lawyer or something' or 'when I talk to my lawyer' did not amount to a clear, unambiguous, or unequivocal invocation of his right to counsel, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in overruling his motion to suppress."
Justice Lanzinger said the court considered Jackson's personal history of Attention Deficit Disorder, involvement with drugs and alcohol and school and family life when reviewing their decision.
"Upon independent weighing, we find that the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt," the Supreme Court justice wrote. "[Jackson] murdered Fingerhut during a burglary and stole his car. These were the aggravating circumstances that merit imposition of the capital penalty."