Ohio Supreme Court upholds death penalty in 2013 murder


By Justin Wier

jwier@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of a Youngstown man found guilty of a 2013 murder.

Lawyers for Willie Wilks, 46, argued his case before the Supreme Court in January, but the high court issued a unanimous opinion Tuesday denying his appeal.

A Mahoning County jury found Wilks guilty on seven counts for the 2013 killing of Ororo Wilkins. Judge Lou A. D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court upheld the jury’s recommendation to sentence Wilks to death.

On May 23, 2013, Wilkins, 20, sat on a Park Avenue porch when witnesses testified that Wilks showed up with a semi-automatic rifle and shot her and another man who was holding a 5-month-old child.

The other man survived, and the baby was not harmed.

Wilks also shot at Wilkins’ brother and missed, witnesses said.

The shooting followed an argument over a bank card between Wilks and Wilkins’ brother. Wilks threatened to kill him over the phone, according to court documents.

The murder qualified as a death-penalty case under Ohio law because Wilks killed Wilkins while trying to kill two or more people.

One argument put forth in Wilks’ appeal claimed the evidence presented to the jury wasn’t sufficient to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It cited the lack of DNA evidence and a murder weapon.

Justice Judith French, writing for the court, ruled that prosecutors only need to have sufficient evidence, not the best possible evidence.

“This evidence, if believed, would have convinced the average mind that [Wilks] was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Justice French wrote.

Of three men from Mahoning County on death row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, Wilks was the last to be convicted.

The others are Scott Group, 53, and Warren Spivey, 48.

In 2016, the high court denied Group a new trial in the 1997 killing of Robert Lozier at a downtown bar.

In 2015, it denied to hear an appeal of a decision made by the 7th District Court of Appeals that ruled Spivey competent to be executed for the 1989 murder of Veda Vesper.

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