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Family, death-penalty foes at Byrd memorial
Monday, February 25, 2002
Alan Johnson - Dispatch Statehouse Reporter
NEWPORT, Ky. -- With Free Bird and Desperado as background
music, John W. Byrd Jr. was eulogized yesterday for
"single-handedly'' pushing Ohio to abolish the electric chair.
Byrd, 38, was executed at 10:09 a.m. Tuesday for the April 17,
1983, slaying of Cincinnati convenience- store clerk Monte B.
Tewksbury. Byrd was the third Ohioan put to death in the past
Byrd's family and friends gathered yesterday at a Newport
funeral home -- across the river from Cincinnati -- for a memorial
service that also turned into an anti-death-penalty rally.
The Rev. Gary Witte of Columbus praised Byrd's "one-man
struggle for justice'' and said Byrd's insistence on dying in the
electric chair forced state officials to abandon it. Byrd died by
injection, the only remaining option.
The portrait of grief was different from one nearly 19 years ago
when the Tewksbury family memorialized a husband, father and
friend lost to violence. Yesterday, some mourners came in suits
and ties, while others wore jeans and T-shirts.
Now the Byrd and Tewksbury families are linked forever by their
"They can take my brother's life, but that can't take away our
memories,'' said Kim Hamer, Byrd's sister. "Johnny can't go and
die in vain. Johnny has to be a martyr for us.''
Byrd went to his death proclaiming he was not the one who
killed Tewksbury during a botched robbery. John E. Brewer, one
of his accomplices, admitted he was the killer, but the courts and
Gov. Bob Taft did not find his admissions credible.
Mary Ray, Byrd's mother, cried throughout the service while
clutching a photo of her son, occasionally rubbing her fingers
across the picture and kissing it.
The sound of hushed conversations and sobbing was broken by
the sound of rock 'n' roll -- Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd and
Desperado by the Eagles, two of Byrd's favorite songs.
"Johnny never gave up the hope that the state of Ohio would
give up this injustice,'' said Ida Strong, a prisoner-rights
advocate. "They did not silence John Byrd. They simply made
his voice stronger.''
Byrd was cremated after his execution at the Southern Ohio
Correctional Facility near Lucasville. His ashes rested on a table
during the service next to a postcard showing a tranquil scene of
a river and a bridge, and a note handwritten by Byrd.
"Let everyone know this is where I'm at,'' the note said. "I'm
fishing and I'm free.''
"I believe John Byrd would
consider leaving an evil legacy,'' Tewksbury's widow, Sharon, said
yesterday morning, minutes after Byrd died by injection. "I won't relax for a while.''
Aside from fears that Byrd's
cronies might still cause them harm, Mrs. Tewksbury found herself
reliving her husband's death almost 19 years ago.
"It's taking me back to thinking
about Monte,'' she said. "It's painful. . . . I'm trying to convince
myself that it's over and I don't have to do this anymore.''
The Tewksbury family gets
together for weddings, funerals -- and executions. As cold as that
sounds, it's reality.
They gathered when Byrd came within hours of being executed in March 1994.
They got together the week
of the terrorist attack in September, when Byrd's execution was
postponed again. Monte Tewksbury would have turned 59 on Sept. 11.
And they reunited, in mourning and celebration, again this week.
The evening before the execution
was a virtual wake for Mrs. Tewksbury and her children, who
shared nervous laughter and sorrow in her small but comfortable apartment northeast of Cincinnati.
David, 33, who flew in from
Los Angeles, baked biscuits as his mother, dressed entirely in black,
cooked roast beef.
The 57-year-old widow's living
room came alive with mostly fond memories of the murdered father
of three. The Procter & Gamble biologist was a lovable dork who would mow the lawn in plaid
shorts, a pink shirt, black socks, blue running shoes and a wicker hat.
They boasted about who has
his sense of humor, eyes, nose and buttocks. They also recalled his
volatile temper, cursing a pile of bills on the kitchen table.
To pay for his daughter's
first year of college, Tewksbury moonlighted at the King Kwik
convenience store, where Byrd stabbed him during a robbery for $133.97.
As the family shared chips
and pop, there were outbursts of anger at Byrd and the judges who
delayed his execution, and lingering apprehension about whether Byrd's friends might still do
"We're being very careful
right now. We're going to be careful and cautious for a while,'' Mrs.
Tewksbury said as up to 30 visitors at a time -- relatives, neighbors and former co-workers --
dropped by to pay their respects after the execution yesterday.
They've been threatened by
mail and telephone, including one caller who said, "Hi, this is Monte
Tewksbury. Can I talk to my wife?''
Still, Mrs. Tewksbury expressed compassion for the Byrd family, especially his mother.
"I was in the same place she was 19 years ago,'' she said.
On the eve of the execution,
they eased the tension by playing a song composed for murder victims,
sung by Tewksbury's daughter, Kim, 37, who was born in Columbus.
The lyrics of We Are the
Survivors go: "There are those who've lived to see our fathers lose their
lives, and each of us survived. . . . Joined together, we are strong. We will speak out for our loved
ones who were not given a choice. We are the survivors, hear our voice.''
"This was one of the closest,
tightest families you could imagine. When Monte died, it nearly
destroyed us as a family,'' his widow said.
The native of Baltimore,
Ohio, was loyal to his job, had extremely deep faith and "swore like a
sailor, but rescued more kids than I can count,'' Mrs. Tewksbury said.
His interest in helping troubled
youths began in the 1960s when he worked at a correctional home
near Columbus and continued as a church volunteer after his family moved to Mount Healthy from
Washington Court House.
Yet Tewksbury's children
grew up without him. Sitting Indian-style on the floor, David said he
stopped developing emotionally when his father was stabbed to death.
"My problem is I'm still
15. It stunted my development. It's been a real struggle living my life,''
He's been denied an important thing for which he's been waiting: an apology from Byrd.
"I'm never going to hear
that son of a bitch say, 'Sorry.' I don't feel free here. I have extreme
and a desperate, desperate need for John Byrd to say he was sorry,'' he said.
Kim said she initially turned
to food and music, "being very nasty and eating a lot of ice cream,'' to
soothe herself. Now she is running 2 miles a day, counseling other murder victims and hoping to sing
to audiences again someday.
"I just need this to be over
so I can move on,'' she said. "I was mean and hateful. Now, I'm just
angry. We haven't been given the gift of distance.''
Mathew, 30, of Bright, Ind.,
who pursued his father's interest in science by becoming a surgical
technologist, remains the most private member of the Tewksbury family.
He called his mother after
he witnessed the execution to tell her that Byrd was dead, but he issued
Mathew, who was 11 at the
time of the murder, "got cheated the most because he didn't have an
opportunity to develop a relationship with his dad,'' his older brother said.
The Tewksburys believe staying accessible to the public, through news media, gives victims a say.
"Our voices are all we've
had for 19 years,'' said Mrs. Tewksbury, who volunteers with Parents of
Murdered Children, a national organization based in Cincinnati.
The group receives proceeds
from the daughter's survivor song, written in 1993 and sold at
The family hopes its next
get-together can be a celebration. Kim is helping plan a fund-raiser for
Parents of Murdered Children and a ceremony to remember her father and thank everyone who
helped the family over the years, including the night he died.
"I think Dad lived 19 minutes and John Byrd lived 19 years,'' she said.
But even though Byrd is dead, the fear lingers.
After talking with The Dispatch,
Tewksbury's daughter apologized for locking the sturdy metal front
door. It has five deadbolt locks.
GRIEF, RELIEF FILL FINAL
DAY - PART 2 OF 2
Byrd family sheds abundant tears but not grudges in last moments
Wednesday, February 20, 2002 By Alan Johnson Dispatch Statehouse Reporter
LUCASVILLE, Ohio -- In a small prison room, a mother wailed.
"They just did it. Oh, baby. My baby's at peace,'' Mary Ray screamed in a raspy voice. "God, no!''
John W. Byrd Jr., Ray's son,
lay dead on the lethal-injection bed at the Southern Ohio Correctional
Facility yesterday morning.
The eye-for-an-eye that began
18 years, 10 months and two days earlier with the murder of Monte
B. Tewksbury was complete.
For an agonizing 90 minutes
before the 10 a.m. execution, Bryd's relatives cried, cursed, prayed,
smoked cigarettes and drank coffee as they huddled in a cramped, stuffy conference room in the
prison's business office. They were taken there about 8 a.m., after a final hour-and-a-half visit with
Byrd in the prison's Death House.
Outside the room, some people labeled Byrd unrepentant, a coldblooded killer who deserved to die.
Inside, he was declared innocent,
a brother, nephew and son whose "laughter just makes me smile,''
his mother said.
Kim Hamer, Byrd's sister,
said she held his hand through the bars as they talked one last time
"Sis, there's one thing I learned in life: The spirit never dies,'' Hamer said he told her.
The Byrd family's final visit
contrasted sharply with a three-hour visit Monday afternoon, when the
cell door was open and contact allowed.
"There was a lot of laughter and tears,'' Hamer said. "It was very emotional.''
Byrd's aunts, Connie Jarrett
and Rita Krogman, and an uncle, Delbert Ray Burton, were there
Burton said he reminisced
with Byrd, who, four years younger, was more like a brother than a
"I told him how proud I was of him,'' Burton said. "He was a wonderful, beautiful kid.
"I taught John a few things,
but it turned out he taught me. I thought I was the strong one. Johnny
made my heart stronger.''
Ray, 54, sat at a table,
a bag of medicine bottles in front of her, cigarette smoke curling around
head. She suffers from lupus and has had two strokes.
At one point, a prison nurse took Ray's blood pressure: 150 over 88. Her pulse was strong.
"My son's innocent, and they're
still trying to cover up by killing him today,'' she said. "It's driving
She recalled how her son,
at age 12, helped save a first-grader's life when the boy fell through
ice. Byrd's frostbitten hands broke out in huge blisters, she said: "He almost lost his hands.''
A Jan. 15, 1975, newspaper
article recounts the incident. An accompanying photo shows a smiling
Byrd and a classmate receiving a commendation from their principal and a police sergeant.
As the minutes ticked away
yesterday, the mood grew increasingly tense. Occasionally, Ray
bemoaned plans to "murder my son.''
Grim-faced employees of the
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction paced in the hallway,
staring at the ceiling, the floor, anywhere but the small room where suffering raged.
Byrd's cadre of attorneys, including Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker, stood by helplessly -- out
of time, out of legal maneuvers, out of hope.
By Byrd's choice, no relatives
watched him die. Two of his attorneys, Kathryn L. Sandford and
Richard Vickers, were the family's only witnesses.
At about 10 a.m., after the
Rev. Gary Sims, a prison administrator for religion, quietly told the Byrd
family that the procedure had begun, the small room erupted in grief.
"He's never gone,'' an aunt said. "He'll be in our hearts forever.''
The door was closed. Minutes
later, the nurse was summoned because Ray was having trouble
breathing. She soon settled down.
Shortly after 10, the Rev.
Patrick B. Hanna II, pastor of Hanna Ministries of Columbus and Byrd's
spiritual adviser, slowly walked down the hallway. He had spent the final minutes with Byrd.
Hanna paused before he entered
the family's room, removed his glasses, sobbed quietly and wiped
"John wanted me to tell you: 'Don't cry for me. I'm free at last,' '' Hanna told the family.
A few minutes later, Hamer emerged from a prison restroom, where she had composed herself.
"There's relief knowing my brother is not going to be living in the hellhole anymore,'' she said.
Growing up, Hamer said, she
worshipped her brother, four years her senior. She remembered
snowball fights waged from fortresses built on the yard of the family's Cincinnati home. They would
rush inside to warm up with tomato soup before the battle resumed.
Most of the time, Hamer said, "I got him good.
"I was his little follower.
Johnny taught me how to ride a bicycle. He taught me how to write my
Byrd's two-decade fight to
avoid execution attracted other supporters, including the
Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
The Canadian group set up a Web site devoted to Byrd that included pictures, copies of his
academic- achievement certificates,
a color drawing Byrd did for his mother when he was a
boy, and a poem he wrote in 1991 called Hate Factory:
How much must we suffer
Before it'll all end?
For I am only a man
In this hate factory land.
Huddled against the morning
chill, about 75 death-penalty opponents gathered outside the tall prison
fence singing, praying and carrying signs proclaiming John W. Byrd Jr.'s innocence.
Clasping hands in the final
moments before Byrd's death at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility
near Lucasville, the protesters grew silent, their stillness broken only by a bell rung by a Catholic nun
A phone call alerted the
crowd that Byrd was dead. Some broke into sobs. Others began to sing
We Shall Overcome.
Holding a candle that dripped
onto his fingers, Matt Menkhaus closed his eyes and prayed. The
student at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, who took the day off with eight classmates, said he
heard a Tewksbury relative on the radio saying Byrd's death would give her peace.
"That makes me feel sorry for her,'' the 17-year-old said. "I'll pray for her as much as John Byrd.''
A dozen state troopers watched a handful of capital-punishment backers gather nearby.
Among them was Madge Burton
of Oxford, who said she was waiting for the day that the man who
killed her daughter and two grandchildren is put to death. Her relatives died in 1984; their killer is
still in the appeals process.
Each execution increases
her faith in the criminal-justice system, she said. Byrd's was the third
Ohio since 1999.
"To live in a free country,
we have to demonstrate justice,'' she said. "We have to want justice for
In Columbus, the clock outside
the Riffe Center read 10:12 a.m. when word of Byrd's execution
reached an anti-death-penalty rally at the Statehouse.
About 50 protesters substituted
"Death is not the way'' for the lyrics of We Shall Overcome. And to
the tune of Amazing Grace, they sang, "May we come to know a better way that gives life for all to
Once they learned that Byrd
was dead, the demonstrators became mourners who sobbed and
offered one another consoling hugs.
A group of schoolchildren
admired the high-rise state offices, seemingly oblivious to the picketers.
But at least one person, who was walking his dog, stopped long enough to comment.
"All too often, people who
are murdered are overlooked and their families suffer,'' said Rob Wisner
Several people at the rally
asked that all slaying victims -- including Monte B. Tewksbury, Byrd's
victim -- and their families be remembered.
Before and after Byrd's death, Trinity Episcopal Church held services. The church's bell began tolling
Downtown as execution time drew near.
Worshippers at an 8 a.m.
service took note that the execution came during the Christian penitential
season of Lent.
"I think it's profoundly
remarkable that we execute in Lent,'' said the Rev. Richard Burnett, pastor
the church. "This is the most sober season of the year for Christians. I think the irony is not lost as
we sing hymns of dying on the cross.''
LUCASVILLE, Ohio -- The state silenced a defiant killer yesterday, bringing relief to one family and
a vow from another to continue the fight to prove his innocence.
Until the end, John W. Byrd
Jr. denied killing a Cincinnati-area convenience-store clerk and father
of three during a robbery in 1983.
"This is state-sanctioned murder,'' said Byrd, his burly, tattoo- covered arms strapped to a gurney as
a lethal mix of generic drugs poured into his body. "You don't know what you're doing.''
Minutes later, Byrd, 38,
took a deep breath as the color drained from his face and his mouth fell
slightly open. At 10:09 a.m., he was declared dead by an unnamed doctor at the Southern Ohio
Correctional Facility in Scioto County.
"I looked at him and felt
sorry for him,'' said Kristi Pemberton, who watched from a few feet away
as Byrd died for killing her uncle, Monte B. Tewksbury.
Still, Pemberton said afterward
that neither she nor Tewksbury's widow, three children and other
relatives doubt Byrd's guilt.
"The outcome is exactly what
my family wanted and needed,'' she said. "I'm not sure this gives us
closure, but at least justice has been served.''
Byrd's sister, Kim Hamer,
who was 15 when her brother went to prison, said the state "murdered
the wrong man'' and promised to keep fighting the judicial system until she proves what her brother
maintained all along: He was innocent.
"I'm not going away,'' she
said. "Yes, they did shut him up today, but he was innocent. . . . The
will come out.''
Hamer said she asked to be
among the 11 witnesses in the prison's death chamber, but Byrd
forbade it, telling her that he couldn't handle having his family there.
"I wanted him not to have
to stare in the faces of people who hated him but have people who loved
him,'' said Hamer, her eyes red from a series of emotional visits with her older brother.
The third killer put to death
since Ohio resumed capital punishment exactly three years ago, Byrd
was "calm and alert'' in the hours before his death.
He originally wanted to die in the electric chair so he could make a gruesome statement about capital
punishment, but lawmakers
last year took away the electric-chair option by making lethal injection
Ohio's lone method of execution.
Alton Coleman, who was convicted
of slayings in multiple states, could be next in line for execution
in Ohio. He and Debra Denise Brown went on a murderous rampage in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana
between May 29 and July 20, 1984.
Coleman, 45, has reached
the final stage of his appeal on one of two cases pending in Ohio: the
death sentence for the fatal beating of Marlene Walters in suburban Cincinnati. The death sentence in
a second case was overturned.
Media representatives selected
by lottery to witness the execution yesterday described Byrd's death
Shortly before 10 a.m., he
walked the 17 paces from a holding cell to the death chamber, lay down
on a gurney and closed his eyes. After prison guards strapped down his arms, legs and chest, he
looked at his two attorneys a few feet away behind a glass window.
He neither looked at nor
spoke directly to Tewksbury's son, niece and neighbor, who sat holding
hands in an adjacent witness box.
Asked by Warden James S.
Haviland whether he had a last statement, Byrd said the state was
making a mistake, then told family members that he loved them and urged them to stay strong.
"We fought hard,'' he said.
"The corruption of the state will fall. Gov. Taft will not be re-elected.
rest of you, you know where you can go.''
Byrd then took a deep breath;
smiled at Richard Vickers, one of his attorneys; and mouthed, "I'm
free,'' witnesses said.
A minute later, he took another
breath that appeared to be his last. As prison officials pulled a
curtain between Byrd and the witnesses, his attorneys embraced and Tewksbury's niece sobbed.
Byrd was to be cremated and his ashes scattered at an undisclosed location.
Taft spokesman Joe Andrew
said the governor's only reaction was to say that the order of the court
was carried out and to extend his sympathies to the Tewksbury family.
Attorney General Betty D.
Montgomery said her thoughts and prayers went out to the families of
both Tewksbury and Byrd.
"This is a difficult time
for all involved,'' she said in a statement. "There can be no joy taken
death of another human being -- no matter how much the facts justify this final end.''
After Byrd awakened on his
own at 5:13 a.m. yesterday, he showered and shaved before he
watched TV news accounts of his impending death. Confined to a 12-by-10-foot cell, he never
touched his breakfast of pancakes, grits and apple juice.
About 6:30, Byrd's mother,
sister, uncle, two aunts and a former teen- age girlfriend arrived and
spent the next 90 minutes reminiscing.
After guards led the family
from the Death House about 8, Byrd met with Vickers and Kathryn L.
Sandford, the other attorney present at the execution.
Shortly before 10, Byrd learned
that the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati had denied
his attorneys' request for a full court hearing on Byrd's claims of innocence.
Byrd's attorneys had left
by 9:55, when Haviland arrived to read a death warrant issued by the Ohio
In 1994, Byrd came within 45 minutes of dying in the electric chair before a federal court spared him
to pursue other appeals.
Yesterday, there was no reprieve.
Ohio silenced a defiant
and unremorseful John W. Byrd this morning, the
state's 3rd execution in as many years.
A cocktail of generic
drugs killed Byrd, 38, at 10:09 a.m. today at the
Southern Ohio Correctional Institute near Lucasville.
Byrd was sentenced to
death for the 1983 slaying of Monte B. Tewksbury
during a botched robbery at a Cincinnati-area covenience store.
His execution came less
than 30 minutes after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals denied a request from Byrd's attorney for a full court hearing
on his claims of innocence. A 3-judge panel Monday night denied the request.
In his final statement, he called the execution "state-sanctioned murder."
"I'm so proud of my son.
They've tried to break him for 19 years but they
never did," said Mary Ray, Byrd's mother, after spending much of the
morning visiting her son.
"Our voices are all we've
had for 19 years. We've really had no control
over how it turns out," said Tewksbury's widow, Sharon.
"I'm much more emotional
than I expected to be. It's taking me back to
think about Monte. It's pretty surreal right now."
Byrd awoke on his own
at 5:13 this morning, showered and shaved before
watching television news accounts of his impending death.
Confined to 10- by 12-foot
cell in Lucasville's death house, Byrd spent
much of the morning drinking grape soda and smoking Newport cigarettes,
visiting 1st with his mother, sister, uncle, 2 aunts and his teenage
girlfriend, then with attorneys from the state public defender's office.
At 9:55 a.m., prison warden
James S. Haviland read Byrd a death warrant
issued by the Ohio Supreme Court before prison guards escorted the
prisoner the 17 paces to the death chamber. Once there, Byrd was strapped
to a table with the drugs administered intraveneously by an unnamed
paramedic in an adjacent room.
Behind a curtin was Ohio's
retired electric chair, an option the General
Assembly took away from the condemned earlier this year.
The witnesses included
Tewksbury's son, Mathew, and niece, Kristi
Pemberton, and a neighbor David Decker. For the Byrd family, there were
two representatives from the public defenders office, Richard Vickers and
Kathryn Sanford. A half dozen media witnesses also viewed the execution.
The generic drugs used
were Thiopental sodium, pancuronium bromide,
(source: Associated Press)
LUCASVILLE, Ohio, 11:30 a.m. EST February
19, 2002 - John W. Byrd Jr. died by injection on Tuesday,
the first inmate executed since Ohio reinstated the death
penalty in 1981 to claim he was innocent.
Byrd, 38, calm and lying on a table at the Southern Ohio
Correctional Facility, told his family he loved them and that they
should keep fighting the death penalty.
"The corruption of the state shall fall," Byrd said. "Governor Taft,
you will not be re-elected. The rest of you, you know where you
The time of death was 10:09 a.m. Byrd was executed after a
federal appeals court refused to step in and public defenders said
the law prevented any other appeals.
Byrd was put to death across the chamber from the electric chair
he had chosen as his method of death to protest what he said was
the brutality of capital punishment.
Byrd's choice of execution was removed in November when Gov.
Bob Taft signed a bill that banned the use of the electric chair. The
Legislature's decision to retire the chair stemmed in part from
Byrd's request. The chair had not been used for an Ohio execution
since 1963 and has yet to be removed from the prison.
The table used for the injection was surrounded by a drawn
curtain, and Byrd could not see the electric chair.
Byrd was sentenced to die for the murder of Monte Tewksbury at
a suburban Cincinnati convenience store in 1983. Tewksbury was
a Procter & Gamble employee who was moonlighting at the store
to save money for his daughter's education.
Byrd maintained he was innocent and that an accomplice, John
Brewer, confessed to stabbing Tewksbury during a robbery.
Prosecutors and Attorney General Betty Montgomery argued that
since Brewer already was serving a life sentence and could not be
tried again, he was lying to protect Byrd.
Byrd's appeal claim of "actual innocence" unnecessarily prolonged
the ordeal for Tewksbury's family, prosecutors said. The appeal
was denied by the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court,
which on Thursday refused to hear it.
Byrd claimed that he did not remember the events of the night of
the slaying because he had passed out as a result of drinking and
taking drugs. He said evidence in the case showed he did not stab
The execution was only the third in Ohio since 1963. All have
taken place in the past three years.
Byrd's death came two years to the day after Wilford Berry, who
waived his appeals and asked the state to execute him for a 1989
murder, was put to death in 1999. Jay D. Scott, who was
executed June 14 for a 1983 murder, had argued he shouldn't be
executed because he had schizophrenia.
Numerous appeals to delay Byrd's execution were filed in the past
several days. Byrd was executed after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals in Cincinnati on Tuesday refused to step in.
The Ohio public defender's office said it would not appeal to the
U.S. Supreme Court.
Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker had maintained that killing
Byrd would violate his constitutional rights because he is innocent.
A federal court and the U.S. Supreme Court also had turned
away that argument, and Gov. Bob Taft denied clemency.
Two other requests for delays also were denied. One came from
the Interfaith Coalition to Stop Executions, and the other from
Columbus attorney Cliff Arnebeck, who had been hired by Byrd
and his family. Arneback wanted a postponement to obtain a
videotaped statement from Byrd to use in a possible
wrongful-death lawsuit. Arnebeck obtained an audio deposition
by telephone on Monday.
More than a dozen protesters stood outside the prison Tuesday
"We want to promote the value of human life -- all human life,"
said Father Neil Kookoothe, a pastor at St. Clarence church in
North Olmsted. He and about eight others arrived Monday night
so they could be outside the prison early.
Byrd had come within 45 minutes of being executed by
electrocution on March 15, 1994, when there was a lapse in the
appeals process. The Cincinnati appeals court overruled the Ohio
Supreme Court's decision to allow the state to proceed.
Byrd's execution was the state's first in the daytime. The state in
August announced executions would be moved to 10 a.m., during
normal workday hours, from 9 p.m., when the state must pay
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals rejected a last-minute request to
stop the execution
Convicted killer John W. Byrd Jr., was executed at 10 a.m. today.
A federal appeals court
refused to stop the execution Tuesday of Byrd ,
who was sentenced to die for the 1983 stabbing of a store clerk during a
The full 6th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals rejected a last-minute request
from Byrd's lawyers to stop the scheduled 10 a.m. lethal injection at the
Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
Byrd, who says he's innocent
and that a robbery accomplice committed the
crime, had selected the electric chair as his method of execution, to
protest the brutality of capital punishment.
However, Gov. Gov. Bob
Taft signed a bill in November that banned the use
of the electric chair, leaving injection as the only method of execution.
Eight 6th Circuit judges
declared that Monday night's denial by 3 judges
of a stay of execution was the court's final judgment. The court did not
disclose how the 8 judges voted individually. P> Byrd's lawyers had
argued he was entitled to a new trial on his claim that he did not kill
store clerk Monte Tewksbury and that another man, John Brewer, was the
Brewer was convicted with
Byrd in the 1983 store robbery at which
Tewksbury, 40 was fatally stabbed. Prosecutors have rejected Brewer's
statement as a last-ditch effort to save Byrd's life.
Meanwhile, Columbus attorney
Cliff Arnebeck, hired Sunday by Byrd and his
family, unsuccessfully asked the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday morning to
delay Byrd's execution. The court told him he was not eligible to file
documents in the case because he is not a member of the U.S. Supreme
Arnebeck said he would
ask a colleague with the proper standing to file
Byrd, 38, spent the morning
visiting with family and his lawyers, a
spokeswoman for the state's prison system said Tuesday.
He awoke about 5:13 a.m.,
shaved and showered but did not eat his pancake
breakfast, said Andrea Dean, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of
Correction and Rehabilitation. his daughter's education.
Byrd has insisted he can't
remember the events of the night Tewksbury was
killed because he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. He said
the evidence in the case does not prove he's guilty.
Byrd becomes the 1st Ohio
condemned inmate to be put to death this year
and the 3rd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1999.
Byrd becomes the 11th
condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
the USA and the 760th overall since America resumed executions on January
(sources: Associated Press
& Rick Halperin)
- With time dwindling and mercy out of reach yesterday, condemned killer John Byrd Jr. huddled in the death house with his mother and minister, gobbled down a T-bone cooked rare, and slipped into the special black trousers that Ohio gives the men it executes.
Byrd, 38, was "calm and compliant," according to Lucasville prison officials, who said he planned to watch a TV in his cell.
They said all is ready
for Byrd's short, final stroll to a waiting gurney where the state plans
to administer a lethal injection at 10 a.m. today. Within minutes,
the poisons will snuff out his life. Barring any last-minute delay
- pleas for clemency came in from all around the world yesterday - the
Cincinnati man will become the third prisoner Ohio has executed since capital
punishment was restored in the early 1980s. His death will leave
201 other men still remaining on death row. The electric chair will
be in the same room, but will sit idle. Byrd had requested to be the last
man to die in "Old Sparky," intending a protest.
But next Tuesday, it will be disconnected and turned over to the Ohio Historical Society.
A new state law has declared lethal-injection, a poisonous dose of chemicals, as Ohio's sole method of execution. Byrd arrived at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville
yesterday morning, where his mother, Mary Ray, and sister, Kim Hamer, joined him for a final family gathering that included aunts and uncles as well. As is ritual, he got to choose his last meal: the steak plus A1 sauce, chef salad with bleu cheese dressing and all the grape soda he
wanted. If he orders breakfast today, he will get pancakes and grits. Almost 19 years have passed since a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court jury convicted Byrd of slashing a Procter & Gamble Co. laboratory researcher during a convenience store robbery that netted $133.97.
The victim, Monte Tewksbury, was working a second job at the King Kwik so he could pay his daughter's private school tuition. Tewksbury, 40, called his wife, Sharon, from a pay phone
outside the store. "I've been robbed and I'm hurt and you need to get here,"
he told her. She raced to the store from their home two blocks away.
He bled to death, crying that the robbers stole his wedding band, the ring the girl he had met in church had given him 20 years earlier. He died in her arms in an ambulance.
Sharon Tewksbury won't attend the execution, although her son, Matthew, will witness Byrd's death, along with a niece and a neighbor.
The case had been reviewed by more than 50 judges and six different courts.
All reached the same conclusion: Byrd was guilty.
Ida Strong, the managing director of CURE Ohio, an anti-death penalty group, said Byrd's supporters still believe another inmate, John Brewer, stabbed Tewksbury. Byrd, they claim, was asleep in the getaway van, drunk and high on drugs.
Dave Cahill, 47, a former Lucasville inmate, was outside the prison yesterday to show support for Byrd. Cahill said that he met Byrd in prison years ago, and that another accomplice in the crime confirmed Byrd's story that he didn't kill Tewksbury.
"So maybe he didn't do it," Cahill said. "And maybe they are going to execute the wrong guy. It makes you think, don't it?"
Source: Plain Dealer
BYRD RUNNING OUT OF APPEALS, TIME
Tuesday, February 19, 2002 By Paul Souhrada and Alan Johnson
Dispatch Staff Reporters
LUCASVILLE, Ohio -- With
time running out for convicted killer John W. Byrd Jr., supporters
and family members clung to the slim hope that the governor, the courts -- somebody -- would
finally believe his claims of innocence.
Byrd, 38, is scheduled to
die by lethal injection at 10 a.m. today at the Southern Ohio Correctional
Facility near Lucasville.
Convicted and sentenced to
death for the April 17, 1983, slaying of Monte B. Tewksbury, Byrd
would be the third person executed since Ohio resumed capital punishment three years ago to the
Byrd contends that he did
not kill Tewksbury, and an accomplice repeatedly has confessed to the
killing, which occurred during a botched robbery at a Cincinnati-area convenience store.
Neither the courts nor Gov.
Bob Taft has found accomplice John E. Brewer's confession credible.
Taft rejected Byrd's clemency request on Saturday.
Kim Hamer, Byrd's younger sister, described the three hours that the family spent with him yesterday
as "very emotional.''
"Johnny and I was the only
ones that discussed the case,'' she said. "Everybody tried to hold back
"He's prepared for the worst. But he's still hoping for the best because of his family.''
Sitting in the lobby of a
motel 11 miles from the prison, Hamer said she is angry with the state
the judicial system.
"They're about ready to execute an innocent man.''
As Byrd family members had
their last visit with the condemned man yesterday, a flurry of legal
battles was being waged in state and federal courts.
Ohio Public Defender David
Bodiker, Byrd's attorney, filed an appeal with the 6th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Attorney General Betty D.
Montgomery and Hamilton County Prosecutor Michael K. Allen quickly
responded, arguing that to allow Byrd another appeal at this stage would invite "unending litigation''
in capital-punishment cases.
Late last night, the three-judge 6th U.S. Circuit Court panel ruled unanimously against Byrd's appeal.
However, the public defender
could ask for a ruling by the entire court, which could happen this
The 6th U.S. Circuit is the
same court that halted the planned Sept. 12 execution of Byrd and gave
him the opportunity to present new evidence last fall at a hearing in Dayton.
However, the entire court
on Jan. 7 ruled that there was insufficient evidence of Byrd's innocence
Meanwhile, the Ohio Supreme
Court yesterday batted down three motions by Columbus attorney
Clifford O. Arnebeck, whom Byrd's family hired Sunday in anticipation of filing a wrongful-death
lawsuit if Byrd is executed.
Arnebeck asked the court
to delay Byrd's execution so he could get a full statement from him
regarding his innocence claim. The court denied Arnebeck's motions all three times, voting 7-0 by
phone conference on Presidents Day, a state holiday.
Instead, Arnebeck interviewed
Byrd by phone and, among other things, asked him what he would
say to a jury that might be seated in the planned wrongful-death case.
"Unless an act of God happens,
for all likely and intentional purposes, tomorrow I will be dead,''
Byrd said in a recording released by Arnebeck.
"So I gotta spend the rest of the day now helping to prepare my family for this taking of my life.''
Last night, about 30 death-penalty protesters gathered outside the Governor's Residence.
Most lamented that Ohio executions
-- and their demonstrations -- are becoming routine in the eyes
of the public.
That was the theme in protesters'
speeches, signs and songs during the candlelight vigil outside the
mansion in Bexley.
"It's something that attacks my very soul,'' said Toni Nijssen, who wore a Grim Reaper costume with
a Taft mask that she had
fashioned from a photo off the governor's Web site. "It's not just because
it's John Byrd. It's the idea that the state is killing people.''
Nijssen, 50, of Reynoldsburg,
had been fasting since 10 a.m., she said, and planned to remain
outside the mansion until this morning, when she would join protesters at the Statehouse.
Luminarias representing all
of Ohio's 201 Death Row inmates lined the sidewalk. Two cardboard
tombstones commemorated the executions of convicted murderers Wilford Berry on Feb. 19, 1999,
and Jay D. Scott on June 14.
Michael Manley, secretary of Ohioans to Stop Executions, called both of those men "mentally ill.''
Nijssen said protesters already have a cardboard tombstone with Byrd's name on it.
"I hope we don't need it,'' she said.
Byrd arrived in Lucasville
just before noon yesterday, "calm and compliant,'' at the death house of
the maximum-security prison 80 miles south of Columbus, said Andrea Dean, prison department
His visitors yesterday included Hamer; their mother, Mary Ray; two aunts; and an uncle.His attorney
and the Rev. Pat Hannah,
a Mansfield minister who counsels many on Death Row, also were
After eating the traditional
"special meal'' -- in his case, a T-bone steak, salad with blue-cheese
dressing and grape soda -- Byrd smoked cigarettes and met with family, Dean said.
This morning, Byrd was to be offered a breakfast of pancakes and syrup, grits, apple juice and milk,
the same fare as other prisoners.
Inside the prison, it was
life as usual for the other 1,431 inmates, Dean said. Prison officials
to lock the inmates in their cells this morning until after the execution.
Outside the prison walls,
busloads of protesters from Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and elsewhere
were expected to gather this morning.
If past executions are any guide, a handful of pro-death-penalty activists will gather as well.
Today's execution will be the first to occur in the daytime since the resumption of the death penalty in
Ohio. The previous two --
Berry and Scott -- were at 9 p.m. Prison officials switched the time both
to save on employee overtime and make it safer for protesters traveling to the prison, Dean said.
Ida Strong, managing director
of Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants, said Byrd's case goes
beyond her opposition to the death penalty. If she weren't absolutely convinced of his innocence, she
probably wouldn't have made the trip to Lucasville, she said.
This fight will go beyond Byrd's death, she said.
"They might shut John up, but we're going to continue to fight for an independent investigation.''
Dispatch Staff Reporter Matthew
Marx contributed to this story.
I respond to the Saturday Dispatch article "Governor rejects Byrd's request to stop execution.'' Gov.
Bob Taft rejected John Byrd's
clemency request because Byrd doesn't show any remorse. Why
would a man show remorse for something he didn't do?
The victim made a phone call
before he died and stated that there were two robbers. He described
one as wearing a plaid shirt and tan pants. Police found a shoe print on the store counter that
matched John Brewer, another man involved in the robbery.
The clothes described by
the dying store clerk, Monte Tewksbury, were those worn by Bobby
Pottinger that night. Pottinger was questioned by police but never charged. The police and
prosecutors blew this case and convicted the wrong man.
Brewer has confessed to the
killing, and it's obvious that Pottinger was the other person in the store
with Brewer. According to Tewksbury, only two people came into the store that night. Obviously,
Byrd wasn't even in the store.
If prosecutors admitted Byrd
wasn't in the store that night, what it would boil down to is that the
killer has escaped the death penalty because of the prosecutors' incompetence and misconduct in
this case. Better to kill the wrong man than to admit how badly they handled this case.
Did the prosecutors make
a deal with the jailhouse snitch Ronald Armstead to testify against Byrd?
If there is evidence that this is true, then Armstead perjured himself during the trial when he testified
that he didn't have a deal with the prosecutors to gain his own freedom and that he had no pending
cases against him.
If Byrd is executed, Taft
will be responsible for signing the death warrant of an innocent man. The
truth must come out. The prosecutors made a deal with Armstead and know they are guilty of using
false testimony to send Byrd to his death. Our legal system has failed completely.
Dan Cahill, director
Prisoners' Advocacy Network of Ohio
Byrd's attorneys had requested
a stay of execution, saying killing Byrd would violate his
constitutional rights because he is not guilty.
A ruling by U.S. District
Judge James Graham issued at about 8 p.m. said that Byrd had exhausted
one round of appeals and that he should first have requested permission from a federal appeals court
before starting another round.
"It is not an issue properly addressed in this district court,'' Graham wrote.
"We want to appeal,'' said
David Bodiker, who is representing Byrd and filed the request yesterday
afternoon in Columbus.
Today, Byrd's attorneys will
ask Graham for the authority to appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in Cincinnati.
Byrd, 38, is to die by injection
for the murder of Monte Tewksbury, 40, who was stabbed in 1983
during a robbery at a suburban Cincinnati convenience store where he worked.
Bodiker, Graham and prosecutors
took part in a conference call in which both sides argued the
merits of the request for a stay of execution.
"His sentence to be executed
is a violation of constitutional law, and executing someone without
sufficient evidence is cruel and unusual punishment,'' Bodiker said.
Joe Case, spokesman for Ohio
Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery, said the request raises no
Interfaith Coalition to Stop
Executions, a group of central Ohio clergy, filed a request with the Ohio
Supreme Court to postpone Byrd's execution on Friday. Court spokesman Jay Wuebbold said he
didn't know when the court would rule on the request.
Cliff Arnebeck, who is representing
the group, said yesterday that he would ask the court today to
conduct oral arguments on the request later in the day. Arnebeck also said Byrd and his family hired
him to sue the state if it carries out the death sentence.
At about the same time Graham issued his ruling, Arnebeck and a minister representing Byrd's family
were turned away from the
Mansfield Correctional Institution when they tried to visit Byrd to take
A prison supervisor said
Arnebeck did not have a signed letter from Byrd confirming Arnebeck was
Arnebeck wanted to take a
sworn statement of innocence to be presented to the Supreme Court
today and videotape testimony to prepare for a potential wrongful-death case.
Let me get this straight:
Ohio is pressing ahead with its plans to execute John Byrd next week,
based on testimony from a jailhouse snitch with credibility issues, yet it refuses to accept the
testimony of another convict who says he committed the crime but has credibility issues.
I hope Ohio Attorney General
Betty Montgomery enjoys her pound of flesh, and Gov. Bob Taft can
live with himself knowing that he has ended someone's life to win votes!
Thomas W. Billing
No remorse, no mercy for John W. Byrd Jr., Gov. Bob Taft said yesterday.
Taft rejected Byrd's Jan. 29 clemency request -- possibly the Cincinnati killer's last chance to escape
execution -- because he said it contained no new information.
"Nor does his letter reflect
any acceptance of responsibility for this crime or expression of remorse,''
Taft said in a statement.
Byrd asked Taft to spare his life, or at least grant a temporary reprieve.
Barring an unexpected, last-minute
legal challenge, Byrd will die by lethal injection at 10 a.m.
Tuesday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.
Byrd's attorneys were reviewing
his slim legal options yesterday, but had not decided whether they
will make a last-ditch appeal.
"We're executing an innocent
man Tuesday and perverting our system of justice,'' said Public
Defender David Bodiker.
Byrd, 38, would be the 11th
person executed in the United States this year and the 760th to die
since capital punishment was reinstated in the late 1970s.
Taft previously rejected
clemency for Byrd on Sept. 10, but the execution was halted by the 6th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
However, the appeals court
lifted the stay of Byrd's execution earlier this year; the U.S. Supreme
Court declined to hear the case this week, all but sealing Byrd's fate.
The governor's office has
been deluged with 8,451 letters, petitions and phone calls -- 2,237 this
year -- opposing Byrd's execution.
Taft received 10 communications supporting Byrd's execution, four this year.
Among those opposing the
execution was Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., a Columbus native, special
assistant to President Kennedy and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Schlesinger noted in his letter that
he was "a friend half a century ago of (U.S.) Sen. Robert A. Taft,'' the governor's grandfather.
Capital punishment, Schlesinger
wrote, "should be reserved for cases where there is absolutely no
shred or tremor of doubt . . . The case of John Byrd is, to say the least, shrouded in doubt.''
Religious groups are planning
prayer vigils and protests at the Governor's Residence, the Statehouse
and the prison.
"The whole point is to be
visible, to say there's a lot of people who think there's another way,
execution isn't necessary,'' said Jim Tobin of the Catholic Conference of Ohio and Ohioans to Stop
Byrd was sentenced to death
for the April 17, 1983, slaying of convenience-store clerk Monte B.
Tewksbury during a botched robbery. While Byrd denies being the slayer -- and an accomplice,
John E. Brewer, has confessed to the crime -- the courts have found Brewer's admission not
COLUMBUS - Gov. Bob Taft denied clemency
again Friday to John W.
Byrd Jr., who is scheduled to be executed next week for a slaying 19 years
The decision came the day after the
U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop
Tuesday's execution or hear Byrd's appeal that an accomplice committed the
Late Friday afternoon, the Interfaith Coalition to Stop Executions, a group of central Ohio clergy opposed to the death penalty, asked the Ohio Supreme Court to postpone Byrd's execution, claiming he is innocent. The court likely will not rule on the request before Monday, spokesman Jay Wuebbold said.
Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker,
whose office represents Byrd, said he
had nothing to do with the coalition's filing. He said he had not decided
whether to pursue further court action on Byrd's behalf.
However, Amnesty International said
it would appeal to Taft to spare Byrd.
The governor is empowered to grant clemency at any time up to the
condemned inmate's death.
''The governor has not consented to
meet or talk to ... the family of John Byrd,
so we're going to try to make that personal contact,'' said Adam Ortiz, deputy
director of the groups Midwest regional office in Chicago. ''We're going to
hopefully appeal to his conscience.''
Byrd, 38, is to die by injection for
the 1983 murder of Monte Tewksbury, 40,
who was stabbed in a robbery of the suburban Cincinnati convenience store
where he worked.
Tewksbury, a Procter & Gamble Co.
employee, was moonlighting to pay for
his daughter's education.
Barring a last-minute court order, Byrd
will be taken Monday from death row
at the Mansfield Correctional Institution to the death house at the Southern
Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. His execution is scheduled for 10 a.m.
The governor said Friday that he had
found no reason to disagree with the
courts that had heard the case. ''Therefore, I respectfully deny his request for
clemency. May God bless the family and friends of Monte Tewksbury.''
Byrd's mother and sister met with Taft's
chief counsel, William Klatt, but the
governor did not speak with them, spokesman Joe Andrews said. Taft plans to
stick to his schedule during the weekend but will be advised about any changes in Byrd's case, Andrews said.
''He'll keep the lines open, but I'm
not aware he's going to change his routine at
all,'' Andrews said.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Michael Allen,
whose office obtained Byrd's
conviction, said the time has come for Byrd to face justice.
''There's reason for optimism in this
case. What the Tewksbury family ... has
been put through in the last 19 years is reprehensible.''
Byrd has claimed that he doesn't remember
the events of the night of the
slaying because he had passed out as a result of drinking and taking drugs.
He said evidence in the case shows he did not stab Tewksbury.
Byrd had originally chosen the electric
chair as his method of execution,
first scheduled for Sept. 12. He said he wanted to demonstrate the brutality
of capital punishment by choosing the chair, which has not been used for
an Ohio execution since 1963.
However, the Legislature has since banned
the chair's use, leaving lethal
injection as the sole means of execution.
Byrd's execution would be only the third
in Ohio since 1963. All have taken
place in the past three years. Wilford Berry, who waived his appeals and
asked the state to execute him for a 1989 murder, was put to death in 1999.
Jay D. Scott was executed last June 14 for a 1983 murder.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The U.S. Supreme
Court refused Thursday to stop
the execution of an inmate who claims an accomplice stabbed the store
clerk he was convicted of killing.
John W. Byrd Jr. will be put
to death by injection Tuesday unless Gov.
Bob Taft grants him clemency or his lawyers find another avenue of
Byrd had said he wanted to be
electrocuted to illustrate the brutality of
capital punishment. But in November, Taft signed a law banning
electrocution, which makes lethal injection the only means of execution
Two men have died by injection
since Ohio reinstated the death penalty
The nation's highest court ruled
without comment Thursday on the final
appeal by Byrd's lawyers. Byrd, 38, has been on death row for half of
his life for the 1983 stabbing death of suburban Cincinnati convenience
store clerk Monte Tewksbury, 40.
Taft, who last year denied clemency
to Byrd, could grant Byrd's latest
request that his sentence be reduced to life in prison.
Byrd's public defenders had asked
Justice John Paul Stevens to delay
the execution while the court considered the appeal.
Byrd's case is a familiar one
at the Supreme Court. Justices in
September turned down Ohio's request to let the state immediately
execute Byrd — over the objections of the appeals court.
At the heart of the case was the
timeliness of Byrd's new claims that he
is innocent and that accomplice John Brewer was the killer. Brewer,
who is serving a life in prison sentence, has said that is true.
Ohio said Byrd didn't raise the
issue until 18 years after his trial. Federal
law allows defendants to raise new constitutional claims only if they
could not been discovered earlier through "due diligence"
scheduled to be xecuted in little more
than a week, is spending his days
preparing his family for what could be the second execution of an Ohio
inmate in eight months. He's also asking Gov. Bob Taft a second time to
spare his life and hoping the governor asks for a federal investigation
into his case.
''My main concern, as I've always said,
is for my family
and the people that love me. I'm trying to prepare them best for what may
or may not happen. But my goal is to get the truth out on this and
how the system has actually failed in this,'' Byrd, 38, said in an
interview last week in a room off death row at the Mansfield Correctional
Institution. Byrd, dressed in a white pullover shirt, blue sweatpants and tan
suede boots, was calm and measured in his comments on his case. Byrd,
whose wrists were shackled to a belt around his waist, wore a small gold
crucifix on a necklace. He has spent half his life on death row for
the stabbing death of Monte Tewksbury, a Mount Healthy man moonlighting
as a convenience store clerk to help pay for his daughter's education.
Tewksbury, 40, was stabbed to death
during a robbery in 1983. Byrd
insists he cannot remember the events of the night Tewksbury was killed.
He said he had spent the day drinking beer and taking drugs, including
Quaaludes, Percodan and marijuana. However, he bases his claim of
innocence on evidence in the case. ''That has always been a problem for
me by not knowing what actually happened that night. When
I have been able to find things out, it is through carefully looking at
the evidence,'' Byrd said. In his letter to Taft, Byrd claimed
that blood found on his clothing was not Tewksbury's type and he was
not wearing the clothing that a dying Tewksbury described to police.
He also wrote that his conviction was obtained on the testimony of
''jailhouse snitches,'' including Ronald Armstead, who said Byrd
confessed to the killing. Lawyers for Taft, who denied clemency for Byrd on
Sept. 10, are looking into Byrd's claims, said Joe Andrews, a spokesman
for the governor. ''We've received the request and the staff is
currently reviewing it. The governor will give it full consideration,'' Andrews
said. Byrd said Taft should seek a federal probe of the Hamilton County
prosecutor's office. He said prosecutors routinely use inmate testimony
- and sometimes from the same inmates - to win cases. Yet many
affidavits Byrd filed to support his claim of innocence also came from
inmates. There's a difference, though, in how courts evaluate inmates
testifying for the prosecution and those who support the defense, he
said. ''The way that I'm viewing this is that as long as you're willing
to be a witness for the state, whatever you say is truthful. If you're
not being a witness for the state, then you should be given no
credibility,'' Byrd said. Hamilton County is no different from any
county in assembling cases and presenting evidence, current Prosecutor
Michael Allen said. That includes the use of inmate testimony, said
Allen, who was not with the office during Byrd's trial. ''It's very
rare. It does happen on occasion,'' Allen said. ''In Mr. Byrd's case, it
was a jury of his peers that determined that Armstead was credible. ...
These are all issues that he and his
lawyers have presented at every
level. All of his claims have been rejected by every court and by the
parole board.'' Byrd's attorneys in the Ohio Public Defender's office
have one appeal left - to the U.S. Supreme Court. An appeal will be
filed early this week, Public Defender David Bodiker said.
Byrd's failure to present an account
of the night Tewksbury was killed
has not helped. ''John has contributed to the predicament, and I think
that's frustrating for him,'' Bodiker said. Should the U.S. Supreme
Court turn down his appeal or refuse to hear his case, only Taft can
stop the execution. In Byrd's letter to Taft, he acknowledges his plea
''may very well be a futile attempt to try and make you reconsider your
previous decision.'' Although Taft, a lawyer, never worked in the
Hamilton County prosecutor's office, his family is one of the most
famous in Cincinnati. ''That's one of the reasons I feel that I don't
have any hope with the governor is because he is from Hamilton County.
They're all part of this same alumni,''
Publication date: 02-11-02
As Sharon Tewksbury held her dying husband in her arms, she had no
idea her blissfully anonymous middle-class existence was dying with him,
thrusting her into the spotlight of a 19-year battle over capital punishment
in Hamilton County and across Ohio.
''I am not a vindictive widow. I am not eaten up by hatred,'' Mrs. Tewksbury
said. ''I am here because of the rage and hatred and anger of John Byrd,
She doesn't demand that John Byrd Jr., the man who a jury found plunged
a five-inch hunter's knife into the side of Monte Tewksbury during the 1983
robbery, be executed to exact revenge. Rather, she de mands the death
sentence imposed upon Byrd - scheduled to be carried out Tuesday
morning - be completed to uphold justice.
''I am not the persecutor and he is not the victim,'' she said. ''I would
anything to not be here, but I will not back off.''
Those sentiments began April 17, 1983, with an unexpected telephone call
from her husband of 20 years that threw her life into turmoil.
''He was breathless and crying, saying, 'You need to get here. I've been
robbed and I'm hurt and you need to get here,' '' Mrs. Tewksbury recalled.
Always a worrier about money, Monte Tewksbury, a long-time Procter &
Gamble lab employee, often worked a second job. This time, his
moonlighting saw him take a job in January at the Pippin Road King Kwik
convenience store two blocks from the Tewksbury home.
Mrs. Tewksbury raced to the store and found her 40-year-old husband
''When I got there, he was laying in the middle of the King Kwik floor
gaping wound in his side,'' Mrs. Tewksbury said, pausing to slightly rock
back and forth as she remembered.
His tears weren't caused by the stab wound. They were caused by a
deeper wound. In addition to the $133.97 the robbers took from the cash
register, along with his wallet and watch, they also ripped his plain gold
wedding band from his finger.
''When I first got to him, that was what was upsetting to him. He said,
'They took my ring.' Monte cried about it,'' Mrs. Tewksbury said.
That was the man Sharon Lynch met in church when she was a
16-year-old high school sophomore - the teasing, charming man who lived
to reach out to others.
He was the son of a U.S. Navy recruiter and grew up in Lancaster, Ohio.
She was the daughter of an Air Force veteran from Washington Court
The sweethearts married in 1963, while he was still in col lege, and moved
to Columbus, where he took a job at a correctional home for troubled kids
as he slowly continued working toward a college degree.
''I wonder what he could have done if John Byrd was one of his kids (in
home)?'' Mrs. Tewksbury asked.
It took Monte Tewksbury 10 years to earn his degree, but by then he
already was working as a clinical monitor in labs for Procter & Gamble and
had moved the family to Mount Healthy, two blocks from where he would
Always concerned about family finances, Tewksbury took additional jobs,
usually at hospitals. Facing college tuition bills for 18-year-old daughter,
Kim, Tewksbury once again decided he needed another job. In January
1983, he saw a help wanted sign in the nearby convenience store.
''Kim and I had this very, very frightening reaction. It just didn't feel
Call it a premonition. It just didn't feel good to either of us,'' Mrs.
His daughter remembers her father driving past the store one day when
she asked him what he would do if were he robbed.
''He said, 'I would do exactly what the robbers said, give them what they
want, get down on the floor and count to 100 hoping they were gone,' '' his
That's precisely what Monte Tewksbury tried to do just after 11 p.m. the
night he was murdered.
Outside the store, three men - 19-year-old Byrd, 20-year-old John Brewer
and William ''Danny'' Woodall, 34 - sat in a red van planning the first of
their two robberies that night.
Byrd, who later said he was high on drugs and drunk, and Brewer burst
into the store and robbed the compliant Tewksbury before Byrd stuck the
knife into him, lacerating his liver and causing him to bleed to death.
They ripped the telephone cord from the wall before fleeing to the van,
where Woodall waited to drive them away to a second robbery they would
commit an hour later.
''The only struggle was him getting outside to a phone,'' Mrs. Tewksbury
Tewksbury - who in addition to Kim left two other children, ages 14 and
- wasn't even supposed to be working that night, his widow said. Befitting
his generosity, he was substituting for a female clerk.
That night was just the beginning of the pain that now, a generation later,
has yet to heal for the Tewksburys and others.
''People that we don't even know have been bothered by this. I think that's
because that was too close to everyone. It was a middle-class family that
this happened to and people could identify. With this case, all reason
vanished and people freaked out,'' daughter Kim said.
Today, Mrs. Tewksbury's angst is not aimed at Byrd. The process that 19
years later has failed to carry out Byrd's sentence is what bothers her.
''The appeals process is what's broken,'' Mrs. Tewksbury said.
Even worse, she and her family are viewed with scorn by those opposed to
capital punishment, something that becomes ever more apparent to them
as Byrd's execution date nears.
''Our family feels used by these people. Many of them don't even known
about this case,'' Mrs. Tewksbury said.
Last July in Columbus, as she and others protested an event hosted by a
bar to raise money to fight the death penalty, Mrs. Tewksbury was verbally
accosted by those preaching the evils of capital punishment.
''Those are personal agendas. Talk about cruel and unusual,'' Mrs.
Tewksbury said. ''What's going on now is a lot of political and theological
things that just swept us along, and we don't appreciate it.''
She empathizes with Byrd's family who, in begging for clemency, cried as
they explained how hard it would be to watch their brother die and have to
deal with funeral arrangements.
''I look at John Byrd's mother and his sister and I see the pain they are
going through,'' Mrs. Tewksbury said. ''But I said those words (19) years
ago. When she said she'd be the one to claim the body, well, I did that ...
Her anger continues to be overshadowed by her grief - anguish she sees
the faces of families of other murder victims. That spurred her to become
an advocate for victims' families and helped her deal with her own
The work, however, hasn't lessened her desire to see justice done.
''We do not wish to celebrate the death of John Byrd, but we will after
this is over celebrate the life of Monte,'' his widow said. ''It's been about
John Byrd for (19) years.''
''Look,'' daughter Kim said, pointing to a thick stack of legal papers
the Byrd prosecution. ''It says 'The State of Ohio versus John Byrd,' not
the Tewksburys versus Byrd.
''It is not us who has done this. It is (Byrd). At this point, it ain't
or us. I don't want to be famous for this.''
Even Byrd's death won't heal the suffering their family has endured since
the murder. Time, they say, is priceless and irretrievable.
''We have had no separation from this,'' Kim said. ''This has been in our
face for (19) years. I want our time back. I want the fear to be over, and to
stop looking over our shoulder.''
For Monte Tewksbury's widow, even that won't be enough. ''The only thing
that will work is if Monte comes back.''
In what appears to be the final chapter
in a nearly 19-year legal battle, John W. Byrd Jr.'s attorneys yesterday
asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his upcoming execution. Byrd has "nowhere
else to go,'' according to his appeal. If the nation's highest court does
not intervene, Byrd will die by lethal injection at 10 a.m. next Tuesday
at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville. While continuing
to proclaim that Byrd was not the man who killed Cincinnati-area store
clerk Monte B. Tewksbury, Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker yesterday
all but conceded that the U.S. Supreme Court is his client's last hope.
"I have no way to predict the odds,'' Bodiker said. "It seems right makes
might. "I still feel just as strongly that John is innocent and he's been
wrongly convicted.'' Joe Case, spokesman for Attorney General Betty D.
Montgomery, said Byrd's latest appeal "brings no new information to the
table, nothing that hasn't been submitted and dismissed by previous courts.''
Case wouldn't say whether he
thinks Byrd will be executed as scheduled next week. "In any death penalty case, we anticipate the possibility for a flurry of last-minute filings. We are ready.'' Byrd maintains that he did not kill Tewksbury during a botched robbery on April 17, 1983.
John E. Brewer, one of his accomplices, has confessed to stabbing Tewksbury, but the courts have found his confessions not credible. Byrd's appeal contends that his death sentence "hung on a web of deceit spun by a jailhouse informant.'' As Byrd's execution date approaches, death penalty opponents are speaking, rallying, writing letters, making phone calls and signing
petitions in a last-ditch effort to stop Ohio's third execution in three years. Wilford Berry, a Cleveland killer, was the first Ohioan to be executed in 36 years -- and the first to die by
lethal injection -- on Feb. 19, 1999. Bianca Jagger, spokeswoman for Amnesty International USA and former wife of rock star Mick Jagger, will be in Columbus today to make a plea for Byrd's life. She will speak at 10 a.m. on the west steps of the Statehouse. Gov. Bob Taft's office rejected Jagger's request for a meeting. But Taft spokesman Joe Andrews said the governor's legal staff is reviewing Byrd's latest request that he be granted a reprieve.
Byrd made the plea personally in a letter to Taft about two weeks ago. If granted by the governor, a reprieve could delay Byrd's execution. The time period for a reprieve is not spelled out in state law, but the governor has broad authority in exercising his executive clemency powers. Taft already has rejected Byrd's clemency appeal. Jim Tobin, representing the Catholic Conference of Ohio and Ohioans to Stop Executions, said organizations opposed to capital punishment are telling Taft and the public "that we don't think this execution or any execution is necessary. "We hope that someday we can sit here and say we don't need the death penalty.''
Columbus Alive - Still looking for "the truth"
By Bob Fitrakis and Martin Yant
Questions still linger in the Byrd case regarding Robert Pottinger
and the testimony of two jailhouse snitches
"You know the truth."
That's what Robert Pottinger told Kim
Hamer, John W. Byrd's sister, in a
tape recorded conversation as she pleaded with Pottinger to help keep her
brother from being executed for the 1983 murder of Monte Tewksbury.
Pottinger later agreed to sign an affidavit
that said he, not Byrd,
participated in a second robbery the night of Tewksbury's death. Hamilton
County prosecutors claimed Byrd's use of a knife at the second robbery was proof that he was used the knife to kill Tewksbury during the first robbery. But both witnesses at the second robbery said the man with the knife wore tan pants and a red-and-black jacket. Byrd was wearing blue pants and a blue-and-white sweater when he was arrested a short time later.
Byrd is scheduled to be executed for Tewksbury's murder on February 19.
Pottinger testified at an October 2001
hearing before Federal Magistrate
Michael R. Merz that he committed the second robbery because Byrd had passed out in the truck they were using. In his opinion denying Byrd's claim of "actual innocence," based on the testimony of Pottinger and others, Merz said
Pottinger's story "is not in the slightest bit credible" and that "he hints at such an admission in his taped conversation with Kim Hamer when he tells her she
knows what the truth is."
You might add judges to the saying that
the only time most cops get exercise
is when they jump to conclusions. Merz clearly jumped to the wrong
conclusion that "the truth" Pottinger spoke of was that Byrd killed Tewksbury.
The truth Pottinger actually referred
to was the admission he made to Hamer
that he, not Byrd, participated in the first robbery as well as the second,
according to Hamer.
Pottinger admitted to Columbus Alive
that, while partying with friends in
the 1980s, he bragged about being the killer. But Pottinger specifically
told Alive he did not murder Tewksbury and he expressed concern about being
charged with the crime.
Byrd has always avoided talking about
Pottinger's full role in the
robberies. Byrd, John Brewer (who claims he killed Tewksbury) and Danny
Woodall-the three accomplices arrested and charged with Tewksbury's murder after Pottinger had run from the truck-allegedly agreed not to discuss Pottinger's involvement, and they always kept their word.
Byrd remained circumspect when he was
asked about Pottinger in an interview
last week, less than a month before his scheduled execution.
"You know what the truth is," Byrd said,
echoing Pottinger. "Just look at
the evidence. Tewksbury said the guy who stabbed him was wearing a plaid
shirt, and the investigator's notes say who always wore plaid shirts [Pottinger]."
Pottinger testified that Byrd was passed
out in the truck during the second
robbery. Asked if he was passed out in the truck during the first robbery as
well, Byrd said: "I imagine." He added, however, that it was hard for him to
remember when he was awake and when he wasn't because he was so drunk that night.
Did you go into the first store? he was asked.
"I never went in any store," Byrd replied.
"That's what people have to look
at. There's never been [any] evidence to place me at this crime-never."
A source in the Ohio Public Defender's
office disclosed to Alive prior to
the Merz hearing that John Brewer alluded to Pottinger's involvement and the
crucial "plaid shirt" in the first robbery. According to the source, "Brewer said,
'Who do the police say was wearing the plaid shirts? What did the guy who
was killed say about the plaid shirt? How stupid are people?'"
With so many questions remaining in
the Byrd case and no physical evidence
linking him to the murder, Byrd asked the governor in a January 22 letter
not "to grant me clemency" but "to grant a reprieve and request for a federal
investigation into my conviction."
No eyewitnesses have ever identified
Byrd as the actual killer; the physical
evidence points to Brewer, who has admitted in five affidavits since 1988
that he stabbed Tewksbury. Brewer's shoeprint is on the store counter behind
which Tewksbury was assaulted. Brewer had the apparent cash from the
register in his pocket, while Byrd had less than $5.
The sole direct evidence against Byrd
is the testimony of Ronald Armstead, a
notorious Hamilton County snitch, and fellow inmate Virgil Jordan. In an
October 24, 2001, court order, Merz greatly limited Byrd's request for documents from the Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff. Merz refused to consider any documents from 1983, the actual time period when Byrd, Armstead and Jordan were in the Hamilton County workhouse together and when Byrd's confession allegedly took place.
Oddly, Merz reasoned that "All documents
related to Virgil Jordan and Ronald
Armstead" need not be produced because the documents were too voluminous.
The Public Defender's office was unable
to obtain records that would show
whether or not Armstead testified before the Hamilton County grand jury that
indicted Byrd; Jordan did testify before the grand jury and at Brewer's trial. Merz's ruling thwarted the exploration of the possibility that Jordan and Armstead conspired to fabricate testimony against Byrd.
Neither Armstead nor Jordan testified
at the Merz hearing. Armstead could
not be located, though he was last reported to be working on an Alaskan
cruise ship; Jordan died last summer of a drug overdose.
Merz declined to review Jordan's Department
of Rehabilitation and
Corrections records as part of the hearing, ruling they were "Too remote
from the central controversy before the court." While Armstead played the key role of Byrd's accuser in court, the record establishes that it was Jordan's grand jury testimony that resulted in capital charges being brought against Byrd.
Moreover, Merz shielded from scrutiny
police documents showing Armstead's
and Jordan's roles as law enforcement informers. Carl Vollman, Byrd's lead
prosecutor, had previously utilized Jordan as an informant and grand jury witness in a murder trial. There are 10 people on Ohio's Death Row convicted primarily or solely on the word of a snitch-all 10 are from Hamilton County.
Merz also denied requests for subpoenas
revealing Jordan's and Armstead's
roles as informants for the FBI, the DEA and the defunct Regional
Enforcement Narcotics Unit. Merz ruled once again that Armstead's and Jordan's long histories as snitches were "too remote from the central controversy."
Jordan's brother Watson and his sister
Doris both acknowledge in signed
affidavits that their brother is a well-known "snitch." Watson Jordan stated
in his affidavit, "He [Virgil] usually gets out of his legal trouble by
snitching on people. In the past, Virgil would get arrested and be put in
jail. Soon after, he would return home. I thought it was strange that he got out so soon and figured he'd snitched for the police... In the early 1980s, Virgil
went undercover as a city trash collector. He used the alias Michael Stokes.
The city used him to catch city workers using and selling drugs."
Doris Jordan swears that "Virgil is a big liar. When he gets into legal trouble, he'll lie to get out of it. He would set you up in a minute if it helped him."
January 31, 2002
Fearing John Byrd Jr. may seek a court
order to die in the electric
chair, prison officials will not remove the now-abolished means of death
until after his scheduled Feb. 19 execution.
"Old Sparky" - the electric chair in
which 312 condemned prisoners died
between 1897 and 1963 - was to be removed Feb. 15 from the death house at
However, Department of Rehabilitation
and Correction officials said
Wednesday the removal from the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility will
be delayed until Feb. 26.
"We didn't want to remove the chair
and then have some legal action,"
said spokeswoman Andrea Dean. "We're just going to leave it until after
the execution. We'd just rather be on the side of caution."
Greg Meyers, chief counsel of the death
penalty division of the Ohio
public defender's office, knew of no plans to file a legal challenge on
Byrd's behalf over the abolition of electrocution.
"Maybe that's where the warden is going
to sit" when Byrd is executed,
Meyers suggested sardonically.
In protest of capital punishment and
his self-claimed innocence, Byrd had
chosen to die by electrocution, rather than lethal injection, before he
won a stay of execution 40 hours before his scheduled demise Sept. 12.
Byrd, 38, of Northside, was sentenced
to death for the fatal stabbing of
Monte Tewksbury during the 1983 robbery of a King Kwik convenience store
at which he was moonlighting near Mount Healthy.
Lawmakers late last year passed a bill
banning the electric chair after
prisons director Reginald Wilkinson expressed worries an electrocution
would traumatize his volunteer execution team.
Gov. Bob Taft signed the bill, which
was passed as an emergency to take
immediate effect upon its signing, into law on Nov. 21.
Byrd avoided execution last fall when
he convinced the Cincinnati-based
U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to order a hearing into co-defendant
John Brewer's claims he stabbed Tewksbury.
A magistrate's finding that Byrd presented
no credible evidence of his
innocence at a trial-like proceeding later was upheld by the 6th Circuit.
Byrd has exhausted all of his state
and federal court appeals of right,
with his death sentence and conviction already upheld by the U.S. Supreme
Court. Meyers declined comment on the filing of further appeals.
Byrd this week wrote Gov. Bob Taft,
a Cincinnati Republican who
previously denied clemency, and urged him to stop his "state-sanctioned
murder" and commute his sentence to time served.
The electric chair will be given to
the Ohio Historical Society for
preservation and potential display once it is removed after Byrd's
(source: Cincinnati Post)
"The ultimate penalty -death-
hovers ominously over this case
Democracy defends itself from anarchy by the degree it exalts process
over passion Examining Petitioner John Byrd's claims with the
requisite judicial sobriety exposes serious and egregious instances
of prejudicial error which, if uncorrected, will lead to his
execution." These words prefaced Judge Nathaniel R. Jones' dissenting
opinion to the death sentence of John W. Byrd, who is schedule for
state killing on the 19th of February in Ohio. The case of John Byrd,
as Judge Jones' comments indicate, is richly tainted by errors in
judicial process, in addition to suspect methods of investigation.
John Byrd was convicted of the murder of Monte Tewksbury, after a
robbery attempt on Mr. Tewksbury's King Kwik convenience store in
Hamilton County, Ohio on the evening of April 17, 1983. The main
incriminating evidence against Mr. Byrd came from a jail informant
who reported to police officials that he had overheard Mr. Byrd
bragging to the two other men arrested with him about the robberies
and the murder. Based on the informant's testimony, John Byrd was
charged as the principal offender in the case, and consequently
indicted and convicted on capital murder charges.
That a capital murder conviction
can be based on a jail
informant's testimony is questionable enough, but when the nature of
the circumstances surrounding that informant's willingness to testify
appears suspiciously self-serving, it makes the integrity of such a
final decision completely non-existent. As Judge Jones' dissent
further details, the failure on the part of the prosecution to
disclose the star witness' parole records and pending charges
seriously compromised the jury's perspective of the informant
Prior to Byrd's trial,
the Hamilton County prosecutor's office
was "adamantly opposed to any potential premature release" for
Armstead. Yet during the trial, they "vehemently extolled Armstead's
virtues" and after securing his testimony, "committed an about-face,
informing the parole board that Armstead would face physical harm in
prison, and that he [the county prosecutor] `would not be opposed' to
an early release for Armstead."
The apparent "wink and
nod" deal that Armstead cut with
prosecutors was not the only compromising factor in the trial
process. The county prosecutor "engaged in wild and inexcusable
factual speculation" regarding the lack of blood on the primary
physical evidence, a knife, and the familiarity of Byrd with Monte
Tewksbury, hypothesizing that Byrd had encountered Tewksbury on
numerous occasions because his hometown was the same as the one in
which Tewksbury's store was located.
Most recently and most
critically, the release of an affidavit
from John Brewer, one of the accomplices to the robbery, that clearly
claims Brewer was Monte Tewksbury's killer should clear Byrd of all
murder charges. Yet his execution date remains unchanged at the date
of this publication and he remains on death row. News reports from
Columbus Alive and The Columbus Dispatch argue that, given the
overwhelming exculpatory nature of such an affidavit, John Byrd might
not only be deserving of a commutation but a thorough exoneration as
has been tumultuous lately, pitting the justices of
a bitterly divided 6th U.S. Court of Appeals against each other. The
court intervened to granted Byrd a temporary stay. Several judges
were concerned at the lack of credence the state had given to
Brewer's statement exonerating Byrd from the murder of Mr. Tewksbury.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to intervene in Byrd's
case and the stay was recently lifted.
Do not let Ohio murder a potentially
innocent man. Another man has
claimed responsibility for the murder, but John Byrd will pay the
price. This is the danger of state-sanctioned murder.
Governor Bob Taft
30th Floor 77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6117
phone: 614-466-3555, fax 614-466-9354
Ohio State Parole
1050 Freeway Drive
N Columbus, OH 43229
Write Op-Ed to:
312 Elm St
Cincinnati, OH 45202
The Columbus Dispatch
34 South 3rd St
Columbus, OH 43215
For More Information:
Ohio Coalition to Abolish the Death
3921 Davis Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45211
Ohioans to Stop Executions
9 East Long St
Columbus, OH 43215-2901
phone: 614-224-7147fax: 614-224-7150
COLUMBUS -- Barring an unlikely reprieve
from the U.S. Supreme Court,
Cincinnatian John Byrd Jr. will be executed Feb. 19 for the 1983 murder
of Monte Tewksbury.
Disregarding a plea by Byrd's lawyers
to ''correct a miscarriage of
justice,'' the Ohio Supreme Court today scheduled Byrd's execution for
Feb. 19 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville.
Byrd's lawyers on Thursday renewed a
request asking the Ohio Supreme
Court to examine his innocence and save him from lethal injection by
sentencing him to life imprisonment.
However, the court without comment this
morning issued a death warrant
for Byrd, leaving only a last-hour appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court
that prosecutors contend cannot succeed.
Similar to a ruling last year, the court
declined today to review
Byrd's claim of innocence in the 1983 stabbing death of convenience
store clerk Tewksbury during a robbery near Mount Healthy.
Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery
and Hamilton County Prosecutor
Mike Allen asked the court to set a date for Byrd's death after a
federal appeals court lifted a four-month stay of execution on Monday.
Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker contended
in his Thursday motion
that Byrd's death sente nce should be overturned in recognition of the
doubt surrounding his guilt.
A jailhouse snitch who lied when he
claimed to overhear Byrd confess,
co-defendant John Brewer's admissions he stabbed Tewksbury and
questionable physical evidence call Byrd's guilt into question, Bodiker
said. Courts have rejected Byrd's claims, however, with the 6th Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals
this week upholding a magistrate who, after a trial-like hearing, ruled
Brewer's confessions and other evidence not credible.
''Over 70 judges have looked at this
case over the years and have
highly scrutinized his actual innocence claim and still, the courts
have upheld the death sentence. The court decisions speak for
themselves,'' said Joe Case.
Bodiker claimed: ''The case this court
reviewed in 1987 bears no
resemblance to the case that remains today.... No legitimacy remains in
carrying out an execution for a long-ago crime when t he evidentiary
basis for the capital conviction and death sentence has disintegrated.''
Byrd, was within 40 hours of dying in
the electric chair on Sept. 12
when the 6th Circuit issued a stay of execution and later ordered a
hearing into his claim of innocence.
Ohio lawmakers since have eliminated
the electric chair, leaving lethal
injection as the sole means of execution.
Byrd has exhausted all of his federal
and state court appeals of right.
In Cincinnati, a federal appeals court
Monday lifted a stay of execution
for an inmate who claims an accomplice stabbed the store clerk he was
convicted of killing.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
had halted John W. Byrd Jr.'s
scheduled Sept. 12 execution and granted a stay while a federal
magistrate investigated his claim of innocence.
Monday's ruling frees the state to ask
the Ohio Supreme Court for another
execution date. The state's attorney general planned to do so Tuesday,
spokesman Joe Case said.
Greg Meyers, chief counsel for the Ohio
public defender's office, said he
had not seen the decision and could not comment.
Byrd had said he wanted to be electrocuted
to illustrate the brutality of
capital punishment. But in November, Gov. Bob Taft signed a law banning
electrocution, which makes lethal injection the only means of execution
in Ohio. 2 men have died by injection since Ohio reinstated the death
penalty in 1981.
Byrd, 38, maintains accomplice John
Brewer stabbed the 40-year-old
convenience store clerk. Brewer has admitted in affidavits and testimony
to killing Monte Tewksbury.
Brewer, serving a life sentence for
his part in the robbery, cannot be
tried again for the 1983 slaying. Prosecutors said he is trying to spare
Byrd's life with his confession.
After hearing evidence in December,
U.S. Magistrate Michael Merz ruled
there is "no room for a conclusion other than John Brewer's word is not
to be believed."
(source: Associated Press)
The state of Ohio will try again Feb. 19 to execute John W. Byrd. The Ohio Supreme Court set the new execution date Friday, just 4 days after a federal appeals court rejected Mr. Byrd's latest request for a delay.
The convicted killer, who came within days of execution in September, now has exhausted nearly all his appeals.
He is expected to ask the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution, but the high court rarely intervenes in death-penalty cases.
"It is clear the issues have been reviewed by the courts," said Joe Case, spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery. "There is not a question of guilt in this case."
Mr. Byrd was sentenced to death for the 1983 robbery and stabbing death of Colerain Town ship convenience-store clerk Monte Tewksbury.
His public defenders have argued for months that an accomplice, John Eastle Brewer, killed Mr. Tewksbury. Mr. Brewer, who is serving a life sentence for his role in the robbery, has made sworn statements claiming he is the killer.
Prosecutors dismiss his claims, saying Mr. Brewer knows he cannot be tried again for murder and is just attempting to help Mr. Byrd's cause. State appeals courts, a federal magistrate and the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals all have dismissed Mr. Brewer's claims as unbelievable.
Mr. Brewer's claims did, however, stir enough legal debate to delay Mr.Byrd's execution for several months last year. Now, prosecutors say, Mr.Byrd is running out of time.
"I can't conceive of any credible argument the public defender could make at this point," Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said. Mr. Byrd's public defenders could not be reached for comment Friday.
Mr. Tewksbury's widow, Sharon, said she will be relieved when the case is finally over. She said she will not attend the execution and "will not celebrate the death of John Byrd."
"I can't think about John Byrd's death," Mrs. Tewksbury said. "What I think is that the justice we've been looking for may finally happen."
Mr. Byrd had asked to be executed in Ohio's electric chair. He said he rejected lethal injection because he wanted to make a point about what he considered the barbarity of the death penalty.
But late last year, Gov. Bob Taft signed a law banning the electric chair. Lethal injection now is the only means of execution in Ohio.
(source: Cincinnati Enquirer)
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