COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The death sentence of a man scheduled to die next month for killing a Cleveland produce vendor in a three-decade old robbery should be commuted to life without parole, a prosecutor said Monday while arguing the defendant is still guilty of the crime.
The only options under Ohio law in 1983 for jurors sentencing defendant Arthur Tyler were death or life with parole after 20 or 30 years, said Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty.
“In light of the limited sentencing options, the absence of the option of a sentence of life without the possibility of parole in this case may have led to the imposition of the death sentence,” McGinty said in a filing with the Ohio Parole Board.
Ohio lawmakers added life without parole as an option in 1996, after which death sentences in Ohio began to decline.
McGinty said he opposes any efforts to free Tyler and dismissed arguments by Tyler’s attorneys that their client is innocent of the shooting of Sander Leach based on statements by Tyler’s co-defendant taking responsibility.
“Tyler is far from innocent and his participation in this crime cannot be reasonably questioned,” McGinty said. He said his request to the parole board was made “to maintain the utmost public confidence in every capital sentence.”
Tyler’s attorneys also argue a jury was coerced into issuing a death sentence and that a prosecutor and some of Tyler’s trial attorneys had a conflict of interest. McGinty rejected those arguments.
They welcomed McGinty’s filing Monday while saying they disagree with his analysis of the case.
The parole board makes a recommendation to the governor, who has the final say. Tyler, 54, is scheduled to die May 28.
Tyler’s first death sentence was overturned by a state appeals court in 1984 on the basis of poor legal assistance. He was convicted at a second trial and again sentenced to death.
Last year, in a rare move, McGinty also asked the board to spare death row inmate Billy Slagle for fatally stabling neighbor Mari Anne Pope in 1987 during a Cleveland burglary while two young children were present.
McGinty said that jurors today, with the option of life without parole, would have been unlikely to sentence Slagle to death.
The parole board and Gov. John Kasich both rejected mercy for Slagle, who later committed suicide a few days before his execution.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.