Despite one juror’s concern, parole board again rejects mercy for killer
The Ohio Parole Board on Friday again rejected a request for mercy from a condemned killer who fatally stabbed a man two decades ago, despite an ex-juror’s revelation that he now regrets his vote in favor of a death sentence.
The board ruled 8-1 against sparing death-row inmate Raymond Tibbetts, set to die in October for killing Fred Hicks at Hicks’ Cincinnati home in 1997.
The board’s ruling said clemency is not warranted.
“The vicious and gratuitous murder of Fred Hicks immediately following the brutal slaying of Judith Sue Crawford was so heinous that the mitigation presented does not outweigh the aggravating factors in this case,” the board said.
Republican Gov. John Kasich has the final say. A message was left with his spokesman.
Tibbetts’ attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Erin Barnhart, said Friday that Tibbetts faces execution because the jury “did not receive complete and accurate information about his background during sentencing proceedings.” The governor has the power to “prevent an unjust death sentence from being carried out in the public’s name,” Barnhart added.
The guilt of Tibbetts, 61, has never been in doubt. In addition to the death sentence Tibbetts received for Hicks’ killing, the inmate also received life imprisonment for fatally beating and stabbing his wife, 42-year-old Judith Crawford, during an argument over Tibbetts’ crack cocaine habit.
The 67-year-old Hicks had hired Crawford as a caretaker and allowed the couple to stay with him.
The impact of Tibbetts’ traumatic and chaotic childhood on his later behavior was on trial before the Ohio Parole Board during a January 2017 hearing. The board recommended against clemency by an 11-1 vote.
Tibbetts is not deserving of clemency in part because Hicks’ killing was “particularly senseless and gratuitous,” the board said at that time. The board also said that the psychological link that Tibbetts’ attorneys allege exists between his traumatic childhood and the murders is “belied by the fact that Tibbetts was largely able to refrain from violence for many years preceding the murders.”
After that decision, a man who served on Tibbetts’ jury saw information about the inmate’s childhood and realized it was far worse than jurors were told at trial.
Last week, ex-juror Ross Geiger said Tibbetts’ upbringing was presented as a debate between his attorneys, who said his background was terrible, and prosecutors, who said it wasn’t that bad.
Thus, Geiger said he was surprised when he came across information presented to the board last year that documented horrific facts about Tibbetts’ early years, which jurors never heard.
“It was like just a different story,” Geiger told the board June 14 in a rare follow-up clemency hearing.
When Tibbetts was a boy, he and his brothers were tied to a single bed at night, were not fed properly, were thrown down stairs, had their fingers beaten with spatulas and were burned on heating registers, according to Tibbetts’ application for mercy last year.
The only hints of Tibbetts’ childhood at trial came from the lone witness who was called to talk about factors that might go against a death sentence, Geiger said. The witness was a psychiatrist who spoke briefly to members of Tibbetts’ family.
The board said in its ruling Friday that while it believes Geiger came forward with the best of intentions, “members are not convinced that his decision would have been different had the information been presented in the same manner at trial.”