OHIO (USA): GOV JOHN KASICH COMMUTES DEATH SENTENCE FOR RAYMOND TIBBETTS
July 20, 2018:
Governor John Kasich (66, White, Republican) has commuted the death sentence imposed on Raymond Tibbetts (60, White) to life without parole, in response to a juror's concerns about the unfairness of the sentencing proceedings in the case. (Source: Associated Press, 20/07/2018)
It was the seventh time Kasich had commuted a prisoner's death sentence. The July 20, 2018, news release announcing the commutation explained that Kasich had granted clemency because "fundamental flaws in the sentencing phase of Tibbetts’s trial … had prevented the jury from making an informed decision about whether Tibbetts deserved the death penalty." Kasich had previously issued Tibbetts a reprieve, delaying his scheduled February 13 execution until October 17, after receiving a detailed letter from juror Ross Geiger asking him "to show mercy" to Tibbetts. Geiger's January 30 letter alerted the governor to serious flaws in the trial that misled jurors to sentence Tibbetts to death, including defense counsel's failure to present critical mitigating evidence about Tibbetts's horrific upbringing and the prosecution's misrepresentation of important details of Tibbetts's family history. "If I had known all the facts," Geiger wrote, "if the prosecutors had been honest and forthcoming about the horrors [Tibbetts] and his siblings experienced in the foster care system, and if we had an accurate understanding of the effects of Mr. Tibbetts' severe drug and alcohol addiction and his improper opioid prescription, I would have voted for life without parole over death." As part of his order granting the reprieve, Gov. Kasich directed the Ohio Parole Board to reconvene to hear Geiger's concerns and to reconsider Tibbetts's request for clemency. However, even after hearing from Geiger, the parole board voted 8-1 to recommend against clemency. In a statement by Tibbetts's lawyers praising the commutation, Erin Barnhart said, "Governor Kasich acted in the interests of fairness and justice by recognizing that Mr. Tibbetts’ death sentence was fundamentally unreliable. The jury was deprived of crucial information about the abusive and traumatic upbringing and the long-term impact it had on Mr. Tibbetts and his siblings. These circumstances provided compelling reasons for the exercise of clemency to correct the failures in the legal process in this case." Tibbetts's commutation is the third in the United States in 2018 and the second in Ohio. On February 22, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott commuted Thomas Whitaker's sentence to life in prison, and on March 26, Gov. Kasich granted a commutation to William Montgomery.