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John William BYRD Jr.

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: April 17, 1983
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: December 18, 1963
Victim profile: Monte Tewskbury, 40 (convenience store clerk)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Hamilton County, Ohio, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Ohio on February 19, 2002
 
 
 
 
 
 
clemency petition
 
 
clemency report
 
 
 
 
 
 

Summary:

Monte Tewskbury, married and a father of three children, was "moonlighting and working alone as the clerk at the King Kwik convenience store in Hamilton County, Ohio.

At approximately 11:00 p.m., two robbers entered the store in masks; one of them carried a bowie knife with a five-inch blade. The robbers removed all of $133.97 from the cash register.

In addition, they took Monte's Pulsar watch, wedding ring, and his wallet which contained cash, credit cards, and an automobile registration slip.

Then, as Monte stood with his hands raised and his back to the robbers, Byrd plunged his bowie knife to the hilt in Monte's side, resulting in a puncture wound to the liver that caused massive internal bleeding.

The two robbers ripped the inside telephone out of the wall and fled.

A short time later, two masked men pulled off a robbery at a similar store, taking the cash register as they fled.

Police pulled over a van shortly thereafter, driven by William Danny Woodall, with passengers John Byrd and John Eastle Brewer.

Inside the van, coins were found on the floor; stocking masks and a knife located in a tray on the dashboard; a Shell credit card in Mrs. Tewksbury name was lying on the floor; what appeared to be fresh blood was found on the interior side of the driver's seat; a cash register was in the back of the van.

Final Meal:

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.

Final Words:

Byrd told his family he loved them and that they should keep fighting the death penalty. "The corruption of the state shall fall. Governor Taft, you will not be re-elected. The rest of you, you know where you can go."

ClarkProsecutor.org

 
 

Office of Public Defender

Press Release

January 26, 2001

RE: JOHN BYRD’S PENDING EXECUTION

This morning the Office of the Ohio Public Defender filed a motion for a stay of execution in the Ohio Supreme Court on behalf of John Byrd.

It is the intention of the Office to litigate the issue of Mr. Byrd’s actual innocence of the death penalty specifications and pursuant to the requirements set forth in State v. Steffen, 70 Ohio St. 3d 399, 412 (1994), a defendant must petition only the Supreme Court for a stay of execution and only that Court can grant it.

John Byrd did not kill Monte Tewksbury on April 17, 1983, as has been alleged against him. Under Ohio law, Byrd cannot be death-eligible unless he was "the principal offender," which means that Byrd must be more than a participant in the crime; he must be the actual killer.

The co-defendant, John Brewer, was the man who actually stabbed Mr. Tewksbury to death. Mr. Brewer has admitted his responsibility for the fatal stabbing, and has signed and sworn to affidavits to that effect, as long ago as 1989 and as recently as yesterday.

Mr. Brewer acknowledged that John Byrd was with him in the King Kwik convenient store in Cincinnati when the robbery was committed, but that he alone fatally stabbed Mr. Tewksbury in the right side, puncturing his liver.

The sole evidence at Byrd’s trial, identifying him as the actual killer, came from a career criminal, turned jail-house-snitch, named Ronald Armstead, who claimed that Brewer and Byrd inexplicably discussed the killing with him while they all were in the Hamilton County jail and that Byrd said to Armstead, and apparently only to Armstead, (whom he did not actually know) that he had stabbed Mr. Tewksbury.

Armstead’s testimony was dramatically buttressed by the prosecutor, who not only did not reveal that Armstead had carefully disguised his criminal record and his motivations for testifying, but also actually vouched for Armstead’s credibility to the jury.

The physical evidence in the case was very sparse, but that which was found and presented at trial actually pointed to Brewer, rather than Byrd, as the actual killer.

The gym shoe print on the counter of the store made by the robber who vaulted over the counter (behind which both the cash register and Mr. Tewksbury were located) was Brewer’s, not Byrd’s.

At the time of the arrest, later that evening, Byrd had only one dollar and some change on his person; Brewer had large amounts of money in small bills in his pocket. Mrs. Tewksbury’s credit card and a title to a Tewksbury’s vehicle, both taken at the robbery, were found under Brewer’s seat.

In addition, Armstead’s co-conspirators in the fraud, have in one form or another, admitted the fabrication of the evidence, and numerous other inmates from the Hamilton County jail at the time have come forward with testimony of their knowledge of Armstead’s duplicity, and of the fact that Armstead and Byrd were never in a position in the jail for the conversation to have taken place.

Ironically, affidavits from these inmates in support of Byrd have been cursorily discounted by the Courts because they came from "criminals."

There is obviously an issue about the timing of the presentation of this evidence, but that should in no way reflect upon the credibility of Mr. Brewer nor the accuracy of his information.

A lot of decisions which probably seemed totally valid at the time were made by very well-intentioned, well-informed and intelligent representatives which now, in the convenient light of hindsight seem suspect. Those miscalculations, if they were miscalculations, should not cause an innocent man to be executed. The Courts must provide a remedy to Mr. Byrd for this miscarriage of justice.

Contact Person: David H. Bodiker, Ohio Public Defender.

 
 

John William Byrd, Jr. (18 December 1963 - February 19, 2002) was executed by lethal injection for the murder of convenience store clerk Monte Tewksbury. Byrd, who protested his innocence up until his execution had spent 18 years and 6 months on Ohio's death row.

The third execution since Ohio reintroduced the death penalty in 1981, Byrd's case was by far the most contentious capital case of the first three. His execution remains as controversial today as it was in 2002.

The Crimes

On the evening of April 17, 1983, Monte B. Tewksbury, 41, was working alone as the night clerk at a convenience store in Hamilton County, Ohio. Tewksbury was married and was the father of three children. He worked full-time at Procter & Gamble, and moonlighted at the store as a second job to help provide for his family.

At approximately 11 p.m., two robbers entered the store in masks; one of them carried a bowie knife with a five-inch blade. The robbers removed all of $133.97 from the cash register. In addition, they took Tewksbury's Pulsar watch, wedding ring, and his wallet which contained cash, credit cards, and an automobile registration slip.

Then, as Tewksbury stood with his hands raised and his back to the robbers, Byrd plunged his bowie knife to the hilt in Tewksbury's side, resulting in a puncture wound to the liver that caused massive internal bleeding. The two robbers ripped the inside telephone out of the wall and fled. At approximately 11:10 p.m., a witness driving by the store observed two men run from it and enter a large red van parked nearby. The van then drove off.

A short time after the assault and robbery at Tewksbury's store, a clerk at a nearby convenience was behind his cash register while a customer played a video game near the front door. Two robbers entered the store wearing masks. The clerk realized what was happening and fled to a room in the rear of the store. One of the robbers, later identified as Byrd, chased after him with a knife and tried unsuccessfully to force open the door. The other robber pushed the video-gaming customer back when he attempted to leave; however, the customer was able to dodge him and get out.

The robbers were unable to open the cash register, so they took it with them. A resident of an apartment located near the store was disturbed by the noise from a loud muffler. He looked outside and saw two people getting into a large red van parked in the lot. The van had a defective tail light.

Meanwhile, although severely injured, Tewksbury managed to exit the store and get to the outside telephone. He called his wife, Sharon, told her he had been robbed and hurt, and that she should call the police and an ambulance. At that time, a customer arrived at the store and found Tewksbury standing outside the building and leaning against the wall next to the telephone, bleeding from his side.

The man helped Tewksbury back into store, went back to the telephone which was still off the hook, and spoke briefly to Sharon. He told her to call an ambulance as he summoned police. Tewksbury told the man, "I'm going to die", and that he had been robbed and cut with a knife. He described his assailants as two white men wearing stocking masks.

Sharon quickly arrived at the scene and held her dying husband in her arms as he repeated his statements. Tewksbury was transported to a hospital, and while en route, made statements to the effect that he did not understand why he had been stabbed, because he had been cooperative and had given the robbers everything they requested. He also said "Thank God I didn't see it coming", which supports the conclusion that his back was to his assailants when he was stabbed. Almost immediately after he was taken to the emergency room, Tewksbury's heart stopped and he was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m., April 18, 1983.

The Arrests and Investigation

As doctors were working to save Tewksbury's life at the hospital, two police officers from Forest Park in Hamilton County were seated in a marked police cruiser in a K-Mart parking lot eating their lunch. They had been advised approximately forty-five minutes earlier by their supervisor about the incident at Tewksbury's store. As the officers watched, a red cargo van drove by at a slow rate of speed. The van pulled into the K-Mart lot, and its headlights were turned off. A few minutes later, the van's headlights came back on, and the van left the lot. However, the van returned within five minutes.

The police officers became suspicious, and followed the van as it pulled into a parking lot near yet another convenience store. The officers pulled behind the van after summoning back-up assistance. One of the passengers, later identified as John Eastle Brewer, exited the van and approached the police car. Brewer identified himself as "David Urey" and told the police he had no identification.

Brewer provided inconsistent stories about why he was in the area. One of the officers asked Brewer to remain in the cruiser while he approached the van. The van's driver, William Danny Woodall, and Byrd provided the officer with identification, which was called in to the dispatcher. Although there were no current warrants for either man, the dispatcher reported that both had prior felony convictions. The officer shined a flashlight inside the van and saw coins on the floor. There were stocking masks and a knife located in a tray on the dashboard. A credit card in Sharon Tewksbury's name was lying on the floor under the passenger seat. There was also what appeared to be fresh blood on the interior side of the driver's seat. A drawer from a cash register was in the back of the van.

On the basis of this evidence, Byrd, Brewer, and Woodall were arrested. In an indictment returned on May 26, 1983, the three were charged with aggravated murder and three counts of aggravated robbery. Byrd also was charged with two death penalty specifications: That he was the "principal offender" who committed the aggravated murder of Monte Tewksbury while committing or attempting to commit the aggravated robbery of the convenience store, as well as the aggravated robbery of Monte Tewksbury himself.

The three were held at the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. When Brewer was interviewed at 7:16 am on April 18, 1983, he stated that he and his friends, Byrd and Woodall, had borrowed the red van, that they were in sole possession of the van from the time they borrowed it until they were apprehended, that at no time during the interim did they have any other persons with them or let anyone out of the van, and that they and only they had been in the van while it was in their possession.

The Trials

Brewer and Woodall were separately tried and convicted of aggravated murder and three counts of aggravated robbery. They were both sentenced to life terms. Woodall died of cancer in prison on April 8, 2001.

John Brewer was tried in August 1983, and testified in his own defense. On direct examination, Brewer denied ever participating in the killing or injury of anyone, and he testified that the statement he gave to detectives was true to the best of his recollection.

He testified that he and his friends had pulled over because they suspected trouble with one of the tires on the van. He denied any knowledge of how Sharon Tewksbury's credit card ended up in the red van, and speculated that the loose change on the floor of the van had come from a cup of coins Woodall's young son liked to play with in the van. Brewer could not explain how the cash drawer from the second store came to be in the van, and he disputed that the Converse All-Stars shoe print on the counter at the murder site was from his own Converse All-Stars shoes. Brewer denied ever committing any crime of violence, and testified that he knew nothing about either of the robberies, and by extension, Tewksbury's murder.

Almost immediately upon commencement of cross-examination, Brewer refused to answer the prosecutor's questions. Brewer was instructed by the trial judge to answer the inquiries, but after denying ever being near the murder site the night of the killing, Brewer again refused to be cross-examined.

Byrd was tried as the principal offender, which under Ohio law means "the actual killer". Among the chief witnesses against him was another prisoner, Ronald Armstead, who claimed that Byrd had confessed to him. Prosecutors did not mention at trial that Armstead would win parole if he cooperated. However, Armstead's chance at parole was not a guarantee. Armstead was declared a parole violator before he testified and was returned to prison afterward. Because he was in danger in prison, the state notified the parole board. Armstead was represented by the state public defender when he sought release from his parole violation. The state public defender advised the parole board that Armstead should be released because of his cooperation and because he was in danger in prison. He was then released.

Byrd denied having anything to do with either the robbery or Tewksbury's death. He claimed he was passed out in the van from a day-long drinking binge. However, there was substantial circumstantial evidence pointing toward Byrd's guilt:

  • blood on Byrd's pants;

  • blood on the right side of the back of the driver's seat, where Byrd was crouching when the police pulled the van over;

  • an absence of blood on Brewer's clothes;

  • Byrd's possession of Tewksbury's watch;

  • Byrd's behavior at the second robbery, where, armed with a knife, he attacked a door behind which the clerk had taken refuge.

Finally, the state argued that Brewer's shoe print on the counter showed that he retrieved the money while Byrd went after Tewksbury.

Byrd was found guilty of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications. The jury recommended capital punishment and he was sentenced to death on August 19, 1983.

Byrd's Appeal

Byrd's appeals were based heavily on statements made by Brewer after he was convicted and sentenced to at least 41 years in prison. In his direct appeal, Byrd claimed that he was "actually innocent" of the murder of Monte Tewksbury arguing that he was not the principal offender in Tewksbury's murder; instead, Brewer was the one who stabbed Tewksbury. Byrd supported his claim with two affidavits executed by Brewer on May 16, 1989, and January 24, 2001, respectively.

Brewer's Affidavits

After being convicted and sentenced to prison, John Brewer was visited several times by Byrd's attorney at the time. One such visit, on May 16, 1989, nearly six years after his conviction, resulted in Brewer's executing an affidavit. The Ohio Public Defender's Office, which represented Byrd during his appeals, withheld the affidavits through much of the appellate process gambling that Byrd would eventually win a retrial. The affidavits from Brewer clearly place Byrd at the scene of the crime, a difficult fact to overcome in trial.

In fact, Brewer executed a total of five affidavits claiming that he killed Monte Tewksbury, but each contained a different version of the events that did not conform to the physical evidence at the scene of the crime or Tewksbury's dying declarations. The Public Defender introduced the first two, prompting the federal appellate court to stay Byrd's execution and order the evidentiary hearing. Two more were introduced during the week-long hearing by the defense and the last affidavit was produced by attorneys for the State of Ohio.

The defense strategy, however, was roundly criticized by the federal magistrate judge overseeing the hearing, who at one point wanted one of the public defenders to take the stand to explain why, if he had notarized the fifth affidavit, defense attorneys only acknowledged two of the documents. An attorney representing the public defender said if his client was ordered to take the stand, he would stand on his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

In the end, the affidavit controversy prompted the head of the Public Defender's office to request that he and several other lawyers in his office be allowed to step aside. The magistrate declined that motion, but the matter was referred to the Ohio Supreme Court's Disciplinary Counsel for possible ethics violations.

Other Evidence Contradicting Byrd's Claim

Attorneys for the state argued in court briefs that Brewer had nothing to lose by making the claim to help Byrd avoid execution, since Brewer himself could not be retried for the crime and sentenced to death.

Additionally, in the federal evidentiary hearing on Byrd's habeas corpus petition, the state presented evidence that Brewer repeatedly said Byrd was the actual killer. As part of the prison intake process, Brewer completed a form that included a place for the inmate to give his version of his offenses. There, Brewer stated he was "involved" in a killing and robberies, but denied any knowledge of the killing or any propensity for violence.

At the evidentiary hearing, Brewer denied ever saying that John Byrd was Tewksbury's actual killer. However, he was confronted with an intake screening form dated August 23, 1983, in which he stated "my buddy killed this guy..."

Despite the introduction of the intake psychologist's report, which stated that Brewer had said he was surprised when his buddy came out of the convenience store and announced that he had "wasted the dude", Brewer testified in federal court that he told the psychologist only that all three men had been convicted of aggravated murder and that Byrd was sentenced to death. Brewer suggested the psychologist's report may have been part of a conspiracy between the psychologist or prison authorities and the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office.

Brewer acknowledged in court that he had lied to the original investigators after his arrest, and that he had also lied while under oath at his own trial.

The credibility of Brewer's claim was further undermined by the testimony regarding William Woodall's account of the crime. Woodall, considerably older than Byrd and Brewer, was the driver of red van during both robberies.

"This Court finds after reviewing the totality of Brewer's statements concerning the (Tewksbury) murder and the statements of others made about Brewer's statements, that Brewer's credibility is irreparably damaged", the U.S. District Court magistrate judge wrote in recommending a dismissal of Byrd's habeas corpus petition. "He admits to having lied to the court in his own trial, his prison social worker, a prison psychologist, the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and the Bureau of Classification and Reception. His five affidavits contain glaring inconsistencies and omissions, and he lied while under oath at the proceedings before this very Court. These facts allow no room for a conclusion other than that John Brewer's word is not to be believed."

The 6th Circuit endorsed the magistrate's 171-page report of the week-long evidentiary hearing and rejected the habeas claim.

Subsequent appeals to the state and federal appellate courts on a number of other issues and review by the United States Supreme Court were ultimately unsuccessful, although they did postpone the execution. On March 15, 1995, Byrd came within 45 minutes of execution before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Ohio Supreme Court's decision to allow the state to carry out the sentence. In all, Byrd's case was reviewed on appeal more than 10 times at the state level and a dozen times in federal courts. During his 18 years of appeals, Byrd's case was examined by more than 70 judges and Supreme Court justices.

Clemency and Execution

On August 23, 2001, the Ohio Parole Board, by a vote of 10-1 rejected Byrd's request for a positive clemency recommendation and urged Governor Bob Taft not to grant executive clemency. The board rejected Byrd's innocence claim, finding that John Brewer's post-trial confession that he, and not Byrd, was Tewksbury's killer "lacks any credibility whatsoever".

Taft's decision was delayed by the last-minute habeas corpus decision and it would be seven months before he would weigh in on the issue. On February 16, 2002, Taft accepted the Board's recommendation and denied clemency.

Among those opposing the execution was Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., a Columbus, Ohio native, special assistant to President John F. 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."

Ironically, Byrd's lengthy appeals process thwarted his wish to bring the graphic nature of the death penalty home to Ohioans. He originally had chosen to be executed in the electric chair because he said he had no desire to be "euthanized like a dog", but a court-ordered postponement of his scheduled execution in September 2001 allowed the Ohio General Assembly to pass a bill making lethal injection Ohio's sole means of execution.

John Byrd called his execution an act of cowardice and "state-sanctioned murder".

"What you are witnessing, for whosoever is here for this state-sanctioned murder, a cowardice way of hiding behind the state seal - you don't know what you're doing." Byrd said.

Nine minutes after the injection process began, Byrd was dead.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

ProDeathPenalty.com

On April 17, 1983, John Byrd robbed, beat and stabbed Monte Tewksbury with a six-inch hunting knife, severing his diaphragm, puncturing his liver and causing him to bleed to death.

Monte was “moonlighting” in a convenience store and John Byrd took his wallet, credit cards and wedding ring, a little over $137 from the store, ripped the phone out so Monte couldn’t call for help, and left him to die while John went on to commit other robberies.

Monte was working alone as the night clerk at the King Kwik convenience store at 9870 Pippin Road in Hamilton County, Ohio. Monte was married and was the father of three children.

At approximately 11:00 p.m., two robbers entered the store in masks; one of them carried a bowie knife with a five-inch blade. The robbers removed all of $133.97 from the cash register.

In addition, they took Monte's Pulsar watch, wedding ring, and his wallet which contained cash, credit cards, and an automobile registration slip. Then, as Monte stood with his hands raised and his back to the robbers, Byrd plunged his bowie knife to the hilt in Monte's side, resulting in a puncture wound to the liver that caused massive internal bleeding. The two robbers ripped the inside telephone out of the wall and fled.

At approximately 11:10 p.m., a man who was driving northbound on Pippin Road observed two men run from the King Kwik and enter a large red van parked at the corner of Pippin and Berthbrook and drive off.

Although severely injured, Monte managed to exit the store and get to the outside telephone. He called his wife, Sharon Tewksbury, told her he had been robbed and hurt, and that she should call the police and an ambulance.

At that time a customer arrived at the King Kwik. The customer found Monte standing outside the building and leaning against the wall next to the telephone. Monte was bleeding from his side.

The customer helped Monte into the store, went back to the telephone which was still off the hook, and spoke briefly to Sharon. Conley also advised Sharon to call an ambulance, and he himself called the police. Monte told the customer "I'm going to die," and that he had been robbed and cut with a knife.

Monte described the robbers as two white men wearing stocking masks. Sharon arrived at the scene and held her dying husband in her arms as he repeated his statements. Police and medical help then came, and Monte was transported to a hospital.

While en route, Monte made several statements to the effect that he did not understand why he had been stabbed, because he had been cooperative and had given the robbers everything they requested. Monte also made a statement to the effect of "Thank God I didn't see it coming," which supports the conclusion that his back was to his assailants when he was stabbed. Almost immediately after he was taken to the emergency room, Monte's heart stopped.

Despite heroic efforts to save his life, Monte died at 1:15 a.m., April 18, 1983, from exsanguination resulting from his stab wound.

That night, a short time after the King Kwik robbery, a clerk at a nearby U-Totem store was standing at the cash register. A customer was playing a video game near the front door when two robbers entered the store wearing masks.

The clerk realized what was occurring and fled to a room in the rear of the store. One of the robbers chased after him with a knife. The robber tried unsuccessfully to force open the door to the room. Meanwhile, the other robber pushed the customer back when he attempted to leave; however, he was able to dodge him and get out. The robbers were unable to open the cash register, so they took it with them.

A resident of an apartment located near the U-Totem was disturbed by the noise from a loud muffler. He looked outside and observed two people getting into a large red van parked in the U-Totem lot. The van had a defective tail light.

Shortly after 1:00 a.m. on April 18, 1983, two police officers from Forest Park in Hamilton County were seated in a marked police cruiser eating their lunch. The officers were in a K-Mart parking lot, which was located in an area containing principally commercial establishments, some of which had recently been burglarized.

The officers had been advised approximately forty-five minutes earlier by their supervisor about the incident at the King Kwik. As the officers watched, a red cargo van drove by at a slow rate of speed. The van pulled into the K-Mart lot, and its headlights were turned off.

A few minutes later, the van's headlights came back on, and the van left the lot. However, the van returned within five minutes, again at low speed, from the direction opposite to that in which it had gone moments before.

The police officers became suspicious, followed the van, and, upon inquiry of the police dispatcher, learned the identity of its owner.

The van pulled into a parking lot adjacent to a closed United Dairy Farmers store. The officers pulled behind the van after summoning back-up assistance.

One of the passengers, later identified as John Eastle Brewer, exited the van and approached the police car. Brewer identified himself as "David Urey" and told the police he had no identification.

Brewer provided inconsistent stories about why he was in the area. One of the officers asked Brewer to remain in the cruiser while he approached the van. The van's driver, William Danny Woodall, and another passenger, Byrd provided the officer with identification, which was called in to the dispatcher.

Although there were no current warrants for either Byrd or Woodall, the dispatcher reported that both had prior felony convictions.

The officer shined a flashlight inside the van and saw coins on the floor. There were stocking masks and a knife located in a tray on the dashboard. A Shell credit card in Sharon's name was lying on the floor under the passenger seat.

There was also what appeared to be fresh blood on the interior side of the driver's seat. A drawer from a cash register was in the back of the van.

UPDATE: Shortly before he was executed, Byrd told his family that he loved them and to "stay strong. The corruption of the state will fall," he said. "Governor Taft, you will not be re-elected. The rest of you, you know where you can go."

 
 

MEDIA ADVISORY

September 5, 2001

(Columbus)--- Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) confirmed that John Byrd is scheduled for execution on Wednesday, September 12, 2001, at 10:00 AM. Inmate Byrd selected electrocution as the method of execution. Byrd was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1983 Aggravated Murder of Monte Tewksbury in Hamilton, County, Ohio.

BACKGROUND FACTS:

Name: John Byrd

Race: Caucasian

DOB: 12/18/63

Crime: Aggravated Murder, Aggravated Robbery and Abduction

No word has been received regarding any stay of execution. This advisory is being distributed in compliance with the DRC execution policy.

 
 

Ohio Public Defender - John W. Byrd Jr.

September 6, 2001 - By a 4-3 vote on August 29, 2001, the Ohio Supreme Court turned its back on John Byrd’s evidence that he did not murder Mr. Tewksbury. Co-defendant Brewer committed the murder. John Byrd should not be executed for a murder he did not commit.

September 4, 2001 - Mr. Byrd’s OPD lawyers took the battle into federal court. They filed a motion in the Federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals asking that Court to clear a path for them to file another habeas corpus petition.We hope that the federal court will take a serious look at the compelling evidence that the wrong man is on death row.

Co-defendant Brewer has twice confessed under oath to killing Mr. Tewksbury. Back in 1983, the police collected physical evidence that corroborates Brewer’s confession and exonerates John Byrd as the person who wielded the murder weapon.

Overview: Why Clemency Must Stop the Execution of the Wrong Man for the Death of Monte Tewksbury

John Byrd did not kill Monte Tewksbury. Co-defendant Brewer did. John Byrd was sentenced to death; Brewer was sentenced to life. Brewer has confessed to murder; John Byrd remains on Death Row for a murder he did not commit.

At his trial, the sole witness who claimed John Byrd stabbed Monte Tewksbury was a jailhouse snitch who lied about facing hard time and who was rewarded with freedom after he testified.

The snitch’s story that John confessed to him was the lynchpin for the prosecutors’ case as it was the only evidence that differentiated John Byrd from John Brewer. To this day it remains the only basis for the disproportionate sentences given to Brewer and John Byrd.

John Byrd’s trial lawyers made mistakes from day one that cost him a fair trial. His post-trial lawyers made mistakes that caused courts to ignore compelling facts and issues in his favor. The trial prosecutors broke basic rules of fair play at trial. Procedural doctrines have almost without exception blocked the courts from analyzing the most compelling factual and legal errors in John’s case. Many of these procedural blockades were erected by the mistakes and bad judgment calls made by John’s lawyers.

The key facts which justify commuting John’s death sentence to a sentence of life imprisonment are these:

-Co-defendant Brewer stabbed Monte Tewksbury. John Byrd was in the King Kwik with Brewer, but John did not wield the knife.

- At trial, the prosecutors put up the testimony of a jailhouse snitch to put the knife in John Byrd’s hand. There is no other direct evidence purporting to prove that John Byrd, not Brewer, stabbed Mr. Tewksbury.

- The all-critical snitch was a repeat violent offender who lied about facing hard time for a parole violation when he testified against John Byrd.

- The jurors never learned of the snitch’s lengthy record or the fact that he had a long prison sentence hanging over his head when he testified; nor did they know that the prosecutors had denounced this same man as a violent, untrustworthy career criminal just two years earlier when hotly contesting his release on parole.

- The trial prosecutors broke fair-trial rules by vouching for the credibility of their snitch. They declared their personal beliefs in a witness’s testimony. No lawyer is allowed to do this in trial.

- Evidence discovered after trial from other jail inmates proves that the snitch cooked up his false testimony to escape years in prison for a parole revocation.

- Within weeks of giving the prosecutors the testimony they needed to put John on Death Row, the prosecutors did an about-face and rewarded the snitch with a favorable letter to the Parole Board. It worked. The snitch went free. John went to death row.

- John Byrd’s lawyers made mistakes, the biggest being their decision not to file Brewer’s affidavit back in 1989. While many raise valid questions asking why John’s lawyers did not reveal Brewer’s affidavit years ago, it is invalid to use these questions as decoys designed to shift the debate away from John’s innocence of a capital offense.

Lawyer error cost John the chance to have Brewer’s confession fully and fairly reviewed in court. But the lawyers’ mistakes do not give Ohio’s citizens the moral authority to execute the wrong man for a crime he did not commit.

Execution should be used only in those cases where we have the utmost certainty in the guilt of the condemned and complete confidence in the legal process which imposed and upheld the death sentence. This is not such a case. Although John should be punished, he should not be executed for a murder he did not commit. The anguish of senseless murder cannot be quieted by killing the wrong man. No matter how deep our sorrow for Monte Tewksbury and his family, executing the wrong man is neither just nor moral.

An execution should not be a game won on a defense lawyer’s fumble or the shady play of a prosecutor using a snitch cloaked in false credibility. The Governor’s power of clemency must stop this execution because John Byrd did not kill Monte Tewksbury, and because no man should be executed on the word of a single snitch who won his freedom by falsely claiming he took a man’s confession in jail.

Case Summary

John Byrd, Jr. was charged with capital murder in the stabbing death of Monte Tewksbury. The charged capital crime occurred on April 17, 1983. On August 16, 1983, Mr. Byrd was convicted and sentenced to death. His appeal to the First District Court of Appeals was denied on February 5, 1986. The Ohio Supreme Court also denied his appeal to that Court on August 12, 1987.

Mr. Byrd pursued state post-conviction relief by filing his petition on October 17, 1988. The trial court denied his petition on October 2, 1989. The First District Court of Appeals reversed his case on February 13, 1991. Upon remand to the trial court, that court again denied relief on April 1, 1991.

The First District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of relief on February 26, 1992. The Ohio Supreme Court, on August 12, 1992, refused to grant jurisdiction to hear Mr. Byrd's discretionary appeal of the denial of post-conviction relief to that Court.

On March 7, 1994, Mr. Byrd filed his petition for habeas corpus relief in the Federal District Court, Southern District of Ohio. The District Court denied the habeas petition on December 26, 1995. Mr. Byrd appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on February 22, 1996. That Court denied his appeal on April 6, 2000. A motion for rehearing was filed on May 4, 2000 with the court of appeals and that motion was denied on July 10, 2000.

Mr. Byrd filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court seeking review of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision on October 11, 2000. The United States Supreme Court dismissed the petition for certiorari on January 8, 2001.

 
 

Byrd's Execution Date Set

Convicted killer faces lethal injection on Feb. 19

By Dan Horn - Cincinnati Enquirer

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 four 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.

 
 

Accomplice Disputes Killer's Death Row Appeal

Getaway Driver's Testimony Points Back at Byrd

By Spencer Hunt, Enquirer Columbus Bureau.

Cincinnati Enquirer

Saturday, February 03, 2001

COLUMBUS — Convicted killer John W. Byrd Jr.'s final attempt to stop his own execution has turned into a case of disagreeing henchmen.

On Mr. Byrd's side is accomplice John Brewer, who says he is the man who stabbed Monte Tewksbury during a 1983 convenience store robbery in Colerain Township. Mr. Brewer's surprise confession is at the center of an unprecedented appeal that seeks to stop Mr. Byrd's execution from taking place as soon as three months from now.

On Friday, the Ohio Attorney General and the Hamilton County prosecutor's office produced the third accomplice to the crime — getaway driver William Danny Woodall. In statements the state filed before the Ohio Supreme Court, Mr. Woodall says Mr. Brewer is lying.

Interviewed at Ohio's London Correctional Center on Monday and in an Ohio State University hospital room on Wednesday, Mr. Woodall's story is contained in two affidavits from assistant prosecutor Mark Piepmeier and Ohio State Highway Patrol Lieutenant Howard Hudson.

The state hopes to use Mr. Woodall's statements to encourage the high court to carry out the death sentence. “Mr. Woodall said that Johnny Brewer never told him that he had killed Monte Tewksbury,” Mr. Hudson wrote. “Mr. Woodall stated that when John Byrd Jr. and Johnny Brewer returned to the van after coming out of the King Kwik (convenience store) that John Byrd Jr. had the knife.”

That disputes two accounts of the crime Mr. Brewer has given to the state public defender's office. In one statement, Mr. Brewer claims he stabbed Mr. Tewksbury after a scuffle behind the counter. “When I got back in the van I said to Danny Woodall, "Man, I stabbed a guy. Take off,'” Mr. Brewer wrote.

While Mr. Brewer signed an affidavit confessing to the crime this year, the public defender revealed he gave a similar sworn confession in 1989 that had never been used until now. Mr. Woodall said in 1989 that Mr. Brewer persuaded him to make false statements backing the confession.

Copies of Mr. Woodall's 1989 affidavits have never appeared in court. “He signed these at the request of inmate Johnny Brewer to help inmate John Byrd Jr.,” Mr. Hudson wrote. “Recently he has been asked on numerous occasions to meet with the Ohio public defenders representing John Byrd Jr., but he has refused to do so.”

That led Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen to accuse the public defender's office of witholding evidence. “Do they in fact have in their file an affadivit from Mr. Woodall?” Mr. Allen asked. “If they do, why have they not brought it forward?”

David Bodiker, the state public defender, declined to comment on the state's filing, saying he hadn't seen it. “I don't think we want to comment on what we have and what we don't have,” Mr. Bodiker said. About Mr. Woodall, Mr. Bodiker said: “Our understanding is that he's dying and that he may die any day. The last we heard, his caseworker said he was really in no position to talk to anybody.” Indeed, in his affidavits, Mr. Woodall told the state he was dying from lung cancer. In the statement taken at OSU's hospital, Mr. Woodall informed Mr. Piepmeier that “his condition had worsened and he realized he did not have long to live.” Mr. Allen said Mr. Woodall's recanted statement should help persuade the Ohio Supreme Court to go ahead with Mr. Byrd's execution.

“It's a sham,” Mr. Allen said of the defender's appeal. “There is no credible evidence whatsoever to uphold (Mr. Byrd's) actual innocence claim.” Attorney General Betty Montgomery agrees, according to spokesman Joe Case. “Given the response we filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, Attorney General Montgomery feels the content of the public defenders motion is patently false on its face and obviously amounts to nothing more than a delay tactic,” Mr. Case said.

With all of his guaranteed appeals exhausted, Mr. Byrd's unusual claim of “actual innocence” is all that stands between him and an execution this year. The legal argument states that Mr. Byrd cannot be executed because he is not the man who stabbed Mr. Tewksbury. Because this argument has never been tried at this stage in a death penalty case, no one can predict how the Ohio Supreme Court will respond. “It's a case of first impression,” Mr. Allen said.

 
 

Tewksbury family finds some closure amid lingering fears of revenge

by Jon Craig - Columbus Dispatch

GRIEF, RELIEF FILL FINAL DAY - PART 1 OF 2

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

MASON, Ohio -- Monte Tewksbury's family hoped that the execution of his killer would bring peace of mind. It didn't.

"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 something crazy. "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 said. 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 anger 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 no statement. 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 www.pomc.org. 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.

 
 

Byrd Family Sheds Abundant Tears But Not Grudges in Last Moments

By Alan Johnson - Columbus Dispatch

GRIEF, RELIEF FILL FINAL DAY - PART 2 OF 2

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

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 yesterday. "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 yesterday, too. Burton said he reminisced with Byrd, who, four years younger, was more like a brother than a nephew. "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 her 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 me crazy.'' She recalled how her son, at age 12, helped save a first-grader's life when the boy fell through the 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 away tears. "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 name.''

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.

 
 

RIPPLE OF EMOTION SPREADS THROUGH PROTESTS STATEWIDE

by Paul Souhrada, Melissa Kossler, and Felix Hoover

Columbus Dispatch

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

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 from Cincinnati. 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 in Ohio since 1999. "To live in a free country, we have to demonstrate justice,'' she said. "We have to want justice for all victims.''

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 see.'' 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 of Clintonville.

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 of 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.''

 
 

BYRD MAINTAINS INNOCENCE UNTIL DEATH

By Catherine Candisky.

Columbus Dispatch

(Wednesday, February 20, 2002) 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 truth 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 as peaceful. 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. The 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 in the 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 Supreme Court. 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.

 
 

Byrd Executed - 6th Circuit Rejected Last-Minute Request to Stop Execution

Associated Press

Wednesday, February 19, 2002

LUCASVILLE, OHIO - 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, potassium chloride.

 
 

Byrd Executed At Lucasville

Columbus Dispatch

Wednesday, February 19, 2002

LUCASVILLE, Ohio - 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 can go." 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 Tewksbury.

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 morning. "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 overtime.

 
 

Byrd Executed

Associated Press & Rick Halperin

Wednesday, February 19, 2002

LUCASVILLE, Ohio - 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 robbery. 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 killer.

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 Court bar. Arnebeck said he would ask a colleague with the proper standing to file the documents.

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 17, 1977.

 
 

All is Ready At Lucasville

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Wednesday, February 18, 2002

LUCASVILLE, Ohio - 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?"

 
 

Byrd running out of appeals, time

By Paul Souhrada and Alan Johnson

Columbus Dispatch

February 19, 2002

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 day. 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 their tears. "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 and 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 morning. 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 to proceed.

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 spokeswoman. 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 present. 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 planned 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.)

 
 

State will execute Byrd rather than admit error

Columbus Dispatch

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

EDITORIAL & COMMENT - 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 real 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.

 
 

Federal Court rejects stay; appeal likely

By Liz Sidoti - Associated Press

Monday, February 18, 2002

A federal judge last night denied an attempt to stop the execution of John W. Byrd Jr., which is set for Tuesday. 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 new arguments.

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 sworn statement. A prison supervisor said Arnebeck did not have a signed letter from Byrd confirming Arnebeck was his attorney. 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.

 
 

Governor rejects Byrd's request to stop execution

By Alan Johnson - Columbus Dispatch

Saturday, February 16, 2002

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, that execution isn't necessary,'' said Jim Tobin of the Catholic Conference of Ohio and Ohioans to Stop Executions.

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 credible.

 
 

Taft Denies Byrd Clemency

By John McCarthy.

Associated Press

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 ago. 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 crime.

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. Tuesday. 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.

 
 

Delay for Death Row Inmate Rejected

By John McCarthy.

Associated Press

Thursday, February 14, 2002

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 appeal.

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 in Ohio. Two men have died by injection since Ohio reinstated the death penalty in 1981.

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".

 
 

Byrd's Concern is For his Family

By John McCarthy.

Associated Press

02-11-02

MANSFIELD, Ohio - John W. Byrd Jr., 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,'' Byrd said.

 
 

For the Tewksbury Family, A Day of Justice Draws Near

By Kimball Perry.

Cincinnati Post

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, not mine.''

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 give 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 crying. ''When I got there, he was laying in the middle of the King Kwik floor with a 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 House.

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 that 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 be murdered. 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 good. Call it a premonition. It just didn't feel good to either of us,'' Mrs. Tewksbury said. 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 daughter said.

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 said. Tewksbury - who in addition to Kim left two other children, ages 14 and 11 - 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 ... years ago.''

Her anger continues to be overshadowed by her grief - anguish she sees in 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 emotions. 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 all of 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 from 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 about him 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.''

 
 

Columbus Alive - "Still Looking for "The Truth"

by Bob Fitrakis and Martin Yant.

Columbus Dispatch

January 31, 2002

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."

"Fearing Byrd Action, Ohio to Hold onto 'Old Sparky'

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 Lucasville.

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 execution.

 
 
  • In re Byrd, United States Court Of Appeals For The Sixth Circuit, 297 F.3d 520; 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 7746, March 29, 2002
  • Byrd v. Bagley, United States Court Of Appeals For The Sixth Circuit, 37 Fed. Appx. 94; 2002
  • Byrd v. Collins, United States Court Of Appeals For The Sixth Circuit, 209 F.3d 486; 2000
  • Byrd v. Collins, United States District Court For The Southern District Of Ohio, Eastern Division, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22323
  • State v. Byrd, Supreme Court of Ohio, 32 Ohio St. 3d 79; 512 N.E.2d 611; 1987 Ohio LEXIS 349, August 12, 1987
  • State v. Byrd, Court Of Appeals Of Ohio, First Appellate District, Hamilton County, 145 Ohio App. 3d 318
 

 

 
 
 
 
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