Ohio governor delays killer’s execution over juror concerns
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Thursday delayed the execution of a killer set to die next week, citing a letter he received from a juror who recommended death for the inmate at his trial 20 years ago but now believes he should be spared.
The Republican Kasich issued a reprieve for Raymond Tibbetts that pushed his Feb. 13 execution forward to mid-October.
Kasich wants the Ohio Parole Board to consider a letter written by ex-juror Ross Geiger, who has said jurors weren’t given enough information about Tibbetts’ tough childhood.
The parole board voted 11-1 last year against mercy for Tibbetts.
In the Jan. 30 letter, Geiger said he believes he and other jurors were misled about the “truly terrible conditions” of Tibbetts’ upbringing.
“After reviewing the material, from the perspective of an original juror, I have deep concerns about the trial and the way it transpired,” Geiger wrote in a letter to the governor. “This is why I am asking you to be merciful.”
When Tibbetts was a boy, he and his brothers were tied to a single bed at night, weren’t 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.
Geiger, of suburban Cincinnati, said he was relieved the governor paid attention to such an important issue.
Since “the issue was important enough for me to send a letter, then it has to be important enough for me to follow through with the parole board if they ask,” Geiger told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Tibbetts, 60, was sentenced to die for stabbing Fred Hicks to death at Hicks’ home in 1997. Tibbetts also received life imprisonment for fatally beating and stabbing his wife, 42-year-old Judith Crawford, during an argument that same day over Tibbetts’ crack cocaine habit.
The 67-year-old Hicks had hired Crawford as a caretaker and allowed the couple to stay with him.
Kasich acted in the interest of fairness and justice, Erin Barnhart, a federal public defender representing Tibbetts, said Thursday.
Barnhart said she’s confident that after the parole board considers Geiger’s statements, “the Board and the Governor will agree that clemency is appropriate to correct the failures in the legal process in this case.”
Prosecutors declined to comment. Hamilton County prosecutors have previously argued that Tibbetts’ background doesn’t outweigh his crimes. That includes stabbing Crawford after he’d already beaten her to death, then repeatedly stabbing Hicks, a “sick, defenseless, hearing-impaired man in whose home Tibbetts lived,” they told the parole board.
“In nearly every case this board reviews, inmates assert that their poor childhoods, drugs, or some other reason mitigate their actions,” Ron Springman, an assistant Hamilton County prosecutor, told the board in a 2017 filing. “The mitigation in this case does not overcome the brutality of these murders.”
Geiger said he was shocked last month reading testimony presented at Tibbetts’ clemency hearing about the conditions Tibbetts and his siblings lived through in foster care.
Jurors heard “mostly anecdotal stories” from a psychiatrist about Tibbetts’ troubled childhood and poor foster care, Geiger told Kasich in his letter.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.