By Marc Kovac
Mark Wiles apologized to the family of the Rootstown teen he knifed to death more than 25 years ago and spoke out against the death penalty in his final moments before succumbing to a lethal injection.
“The state of Ohio should not be in the business of killing its citizens,” he said Wednesday, reading from statement while strapped to a table in the death house of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. “May God bless us all that fall short.”
But a cousin of the murder victim later countered Wiles’ words.
“With no disrespect to the Wiles family, it is my opinion that Mark Wiles gave up his citizenship of Ohio when he murdered my cousin,” said John Craig, who watched the execution as the lone representative of Mark Klima’s family. “He became an inmate, more or less a condemned man.”
Wiles arrived at the Death House at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville on Tuesday morning.
Wednesday morning, he showered and visited with his sisters and attorneys at his cell front, and he said the rosary and took communion with his spiritual adviser, the Rev. Lawrence Hummer.
He arrived at the death chamber wearing a white shirt and blue pants with a stripe down the side, wearing glasses and with his head and facial hair closely trimmed. He lay motionless on the table as he was strapped down and as staff inserted shunts into veins in his arms that would deliver the lethal-injection drug.
He asked for his glasses to be removed before he read his final statement, in which he thanked his family for their support and voiced remorse for his actions.
It took about 15 minutes between the time he ended his statement and the pronouncement of his death. His family was to claim the body.
Wiles was the 47th inmate put to death since the state restarted executions in 1999 and the first since mid-November, after a legal challenge over the constitutionality of Ohio’s death-penalty protocols.
A federal judge blocked two executions from taking place after determining that state prison officials had failed to property document and control who participated in administering lethal injections, among other issues.
In response, the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction instituted a new “incident command system,” with added briefings with Director Gary Mohr and staff involved in the execution throughout the process to ensure written guidelines were followed.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost subsequently allowed Wiles’ execution but warned prison officials of the consequences of any additional failures to follow their written procedures.
Wiles was sentenced to death for the murder of Portage County teenager Mark Klima more than 25 years ago, after the straight-A student caught him burglarizing his family’s home.
Wiles stabbed the teen repeatedly, stole money and fled the state. He later turned himself in to police in Savannah, Ga., and confessed. He spent 26 of his 49 years in prison, awaiting the death sentence he received for the crime.
Public defenders sought clemency, citing Wiles’ admission of guilt, his remorse over the killing and his good behavior while in prison. They offered the testimony of a neuropsychologist who said a head injury in the days before the crime could have affected Wiles’ behavior, while a psychologist said his abuse of alcohol and drugs and anti-social behavior were evidence of a possible brain injury.
But prosecutors said Wiles didn’t take responsibility for the crime at the time, initially denying involvement, and then attempting to blame the teen for pulling a knife.
They provided evidence that Wiles was not drunk or high on the day of the crime. And they said a scan of Wiles’ brain days before the murder showed no damage or abnormalities.
Wiles later sent a recorded apology directly to Mark Klima’s parents — a move that was chastised by the parole board and the county prosecutor. The video was given to prosecutors by the parents, who refused to watch it.
“All these years, I’ve wanted to say to you that I’ve always been sorry for what I did to your son Mark,” Wiles says in the video. “He was an innocent victim of my selfish needs. I truly am sorry for taking his life and causing you and so many others so much pain and loss.”
Ohio’s next execution is scheduled for June 6, when Abdul Hamin Awkal is to be put to death. He was sentenced for the 1992 murder of his estranged wife and brother-in-law in Cuyahoga County, shooting them both at close range outside a courthouse during divorce proceedings.
There are 10 other executions scheduled through January 2014, including Charles Lorraine of Trumbull County for the murders of Raymond and Doris Montgomery in 1986.