(Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and corrections via AP)
COLUMBUS, Ohio-Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Monday spared a condemned killer who was set to die April 11 fatal shooting of a woman more than three decades ago during a robbery after questions were raised about the differences in the case and the fairness of the process.
The Republican governor’s release said that his decision followed the report and the recommendation of the Ohio Parole Board, which voted 6-4 on March 16 in favor of mercy for the death row inmate William Montgomery. Kasich had no additional comment, his spokesman Jon Keeling said.
Montgomery was sentenced to die for the 1986 shooting of Debra Ogle during a robbery in the Toledo area. In its ruling, the parole board concluded that the commuting Montgomery’s sentence to life without the possibility of parole, was warranted, which is what Kasich has.
Attorney Jon Oebker, which stands for Montgomery, said Monday that she is grateful to the governor for his consideration and the decision to grant a commutation.
“We will continue to strive for a new and fair trial for Mr. Montgomery, the judicial authorities may, as justice requires,” Oebker said.
Lucas County prosecutor Julia Bates not immediately return a message seeking comment.
The board majority noted that two jurors said after the trial, they had trouble understanding the law, and one juror was allowed to remain on the jury, in spite of exhibiting “disturbing behavior and verbalizations” that the questions about fitness.
The majority also cited that the police, in that the witnesses said that they saw Ogle alive four days after Montgomery would have killed her was never presented to the defense.
A federal judge and a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Montgomery deserved a new trial based in part on the missing report. But the full 6th Circuit rejected that argument. The witnesses later said they would Ogle, the sister of the missing woman.
“The failure to disclose that report, in combination with the above-described points in comparison with Montgomery judges there is a substantial question whether Montgomery’s death sentence was imposed by the nature of just and credible process that a penalty of this size requires,” the parole board said on March 16.
The order was Montgomery’s involvement in the murders of Ogle and her roommate, Cynthia Tincher. Montgomery was sentenced to death for Ogle’s killing. He was convicted of murder in the fatal shooting of Tincher but not sentenced to death.
Ogle was shot as part of a robbery, and Tincher was killed because she could identify Montgomery and his co-defendant, Glover Heard, prosecutors have said.
Tincher’s body was found in her car the day prosecutors say the women were killed, and Ogle’s body was found in the woods five days later.
Heard and Montgomery each blame the other for the murders. Heard pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Montgomery in exchange for prosecutors dropping the death penalty charge and a child murdering a fee.
Prosecutors say the evidence points to Montgomery as the killer: His weapon was used in both murders, and witnesses saw him near Tincher the car, where she was found.
Montgomery went to a dry cleaners the day of the murders, and dropped off with a coat responsible for the taking of a yellowish brown, brown, dripping mess on the floor,” prosecutors said.
The evidence, including Montgomery’s own version of events, pointing to him as the murderer of both women, Stephen Maher, an assistant Ohio attorney general, told the parole board on 8 March.
Montgomery’s lawyer said in a survey of Ogle’s autopsy doubts about the state of the version of the murders, which then calls into question the entire case against Montgomery.
Ogle’s body was missing signs of degradation natural for a body left outside for several days, according to a review by the Colorado-based Independent Forensic Services, which was requested by the defense. The pooling of blood on her body surface indicated that she died within six to 12 hours before she was found on 13 March 1986, not a few days earlier, on March 8, 1986, the review says.
The prosecutor questioned how likely it was in the cold temperatures that dissolution would have taken place in Ogle the body, in derogation of the forensic investigation to finish.
Since taking office, Kasich has allowed 13 executions and has now collected six prisoners.