By Marc Kovac
Gov. John Kasich has denied clemency for a Mansfield man convicted in the brutal rape and murder of a baby girl nearly 15 years ago.
The decision, announced a week after a comparable recommendation from the state parole board, sets the stage for a May 1 lethal injection for Steven Smith, barring last-minute court action.
Smith was convicted in the September 1998 murder of Autumn Carter after an evening of beer drinking. According to documents, Smith raped the 6-month-old for 10 to 30 minutes, turning the volume of the television up loud enough to drown out the baby’s cries. He suffocated her in the process, then placed the body in bed with her mother.
Public defenders argued that Smith was too drunk to understand the consequences of his actions and that he did not intend to murder Autumn and should not have been given the death penalty.
But prosecutors countered that Smith was coherent the night of the murder and tried to hide evidence in the case, dumping a diaper, beer cans and a shirt in an outdoor trash container.
The parole board and the governor sided with prosecutors.
“The board finds counsel’s suggestion that the rape and murder of Autumn was simply another in a long line of Smith’s alcohol- related unintended consequences absurd,” parole-board members wrote in their recommendation. “Smith’s brutal attack on this infant is in no way analogous to burning one’s dinner, spilling paint on a stove or any of the other silly mishaps described by Smith’s counsel.”