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Trumbull judge resentences Donna Roberts to the death penalty

Published: Thu, May 1, 2014 @ 12:02 a.m.

By Ed Runyan



The death penalty will stand for Donna Roberts, formerly of Howland.

Last October, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered that Roberts, 69, receive a new sentencing hearing for her role in the 2001 murder of her ex-husband, Robert Fingerhut.

On Wednesday, she got that, with Judge Ronald Rice of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court ordering that Roberts be executed.

Roberts sat with a hand in front of her face through most of the hearing, apparently trying to avoid being photographed.

An execution date for Roberts has not been set. She is the only woman on death row in Ohio.

Judge Rice inherited the case when he was elected to replace Judge John M. Stuard after Stuard retired in 2012 and died in February 2013.

Judge Stuard had sentenced Roberts to the death penalty, after Roberts and her boyfriend, Nate Jackson, were convicted in the murder. But the Supreme Court ordered Judge Stuard to resentence Roberts and Jackson to correct an error, and Stuard did so, with Roberts and Jackson again getting the death penalty.

The Ohio Supreme Court, however, said Roberts’ second sentencing was also flawed, because Judge Stuard failed to consider some of the information Roberts told him during a hearing Oct. 22, 2007.

In the hearing, Roberts said damaging evidence of the murder plot recorded in phone calls and letters between Roberts and Jackson were just “stories,” like the creative writing she had done as a child.

Over about 30 minutes, Roberts also said she had a car accident in 1999 that left her “kind of demolished” mentally and that she’d been sexually abused as a child.

When Judge Stuard sentenced her about a week later, he failed to mention in his written sentencing entry any reference to what he thought about the remarks Roberts had made.

The higher court said failing to mention Roberts’ comments meant Judge Stuard had “failed to consider relevant mitigating evidence.”

When Judge Rice had his sentencing hearing Wednesday, he appeared to be making sure no such argument could be made again, spending more than 30 minutes reading from 28 pages of sentencing documents.

These listed all of the documents he read before deciding on the sentence and all of the factors he considered.

He discussed the comments Roberts made during her 2003 sentencing, as well as her remarks in 2007, then discussed the merits of each claim contained in the remarks.

Under Ohio law, Judge Rice was required to weigh the aggravating circumstances that the jury found Roberts to have committed — such as committing a robbery along with the murder — against the mitigating circumstances given to him — such as mental instability.

In the end, Judge Rice said he found the aggravating circumstances “overwhelmingly” outweigh the mitigating circumstances.

As to the issue of Roberts’ mental health, Judge Rice said there was no evidence indicating that she “did not understand the criminality of her conduct.”

He also said Roberts spoke well and had indicated she was a “powerful entrepreneur capable of earning a magnitude of wealth.” So, he gave “little weight” to her claims of mental deficiencies.

Roberts was not the “triggerman” in the murder, but “the evidence clearly demonstrated that she orchestrated the entire plot,” Judge Rice said, adding she “premeditated for months.”

Though Roberts said she had been abused as a child, “there is absolutely no evidence before this court to support the veracity of the physical abuse allegations made by Roberts against Fingerhut,” the judge said.


1daar2055(54 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

This woman and others like her on death row will come up with anything not to be executed. Wasting tax payers dollars. Laws and appeals need to change. When you go to court and have a trial thats your one and only chance to prove your case. After your trial is over and verdict is in its a done deal. If you dont want to be on death row.....dont murder anyone. Its time to clean house and start setting dates. The victims suffered while dying why shouldnt the criminals. Give them several shots with the lethal injection.

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2Azkani(1 comment)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

Daar - Apparently you forget that the justice system is not infallible. Obviously even the judge originally made a "mistake" in breaking the rules to discuss the sentencing opinion with the prosecutor on an ex parte basis
~ Source - http://murderpedia.org/female.R/r/rob...

"“In this case, our confidence in the trial court's sentencing opinion is undermined by the fact that the trial judge directly involved the prosecutor in preparing the sentencing opinion and did so on an ex parte basis. … The trial court's delegation of any degree of responsibility in this sentencing opinion does not comply with R.C. 2929.03(F). Nor does it comport with our firm belief that the consideration and imposition of death are the most solemn of all the duties that are imposed on a judge. … The scales of justice may not be weighted even slightly by one with an interest in the ultimate outcome,”

~ Also in a study done and published by the NY times in 1985 asserts that there are a lot of potentially innocent people who have been executed over the last century. 32 cases were confirmed innocent after the fact. One proponent of capital punishment had only to say that 25 innocent lives (see below article for difference in numbers) was " a very acceptable number". If even one innocent life has been wrongfully taken due to errors on the part of the justice system, then that system fails.

"Many people maintain that these executions were proper, and the authors acknowledged that some of those listed as wrongfully convicted may well have been guilty.
But in 32 cases they cited it turned out that no crime had been committed, usually because the purported murder victim was found alive. "

~Source: http://www.nytimes.com/1985/11/14/us/...

Wouldn't you want your tax dollars to be used to potentially stop the murder of an innocent? Because if even one person has been found guilty of a crime they did not commit, and they receive the death penalty for it, it's no longer justice. It's murder. And just because a murderer is savage to his victims, does not mean that we should stoop to the level of savagery by making them suffer, several times over. Justice is not vengeance. It is to be fair and impartial, unbiased.

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