Governor: No mercy for condemned Ohio killer of 2

ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS AP Legal Affairs Writer Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday rejected mercy for a condemned killer of two men, likely ensuring the death row inmate's execution will proceed next month.

Harry Mitts Jr. is scheduled to die by injection on Sept. 25 for killing the men, including a suburban Cleveland police officer, during a 1994 outburst at an apartment. His attorney previously said no other appeals were planned.

As is his practice in death penalty cases, Kasich didn't explain his reasoning except to note the Ohio Parole Board unanimously recommended against mercy on Aug. 27.

Mitts uttered racial slurs before shooting his first victim, John Bryant, who was black, according to court records. He fired on two police officers as they approached his apartment where he'd taken refuge, wounding one and killing the second, Garfield Heights Sgt. Dennis Glivar.

At trial, Mitts' attorney argued that Mitts suffered an alcoholic blackout that night and didn't know what he was doing.

But the lawyer handling Mitts' appeals and clemency request says there was no basis for that defense.

Attorney Jeff Kelleher says Mitts' original lawyer missed the chance to tell the full story: that Mitts was depressed and caused the disturbance in hopes of committing suicide by being shot by police.

Mitts knows what he did, takes responsibility, is remorseful and is not and never has been a racist, Kelleher says.

"He was an angry, upset person who did something totally unexpected," Kelleher said in August. "It's not the person he was before, it's not the person he's been since."

Kelleher said Wednesday that he wasn't surprised by the governor's clemency denial. Yet, he added, he is disappointed that the state would insist on going ahead with Mitts' execution "in the face of botched executions, a spate of suicides and the public's decreasing support for the death penalty."

Last month, death row inmate Billy Slagle killed himself just a few days before his scheduled execution. A state report on Slagle's suicide released Monday alleges one and possibly two prison guards falsified an electronic log documenting checks on Slagle.

Mitts told parole board members in an early August interview that he would leave the clemency decision up to them.

"Mitts indicated that while he could easily cope with a lifetime of imprisonment, he is also prepared to go home to Jesus," according to the Aug. 27 report by the parole board in recommending against clemency for Mitts.

In its unanimous ruling, the board said it wasn't convinced Mitts had taken full responsibility for the crime and it rejected his claim that the shooting wasn't racially motivated.

"Given the multiple deaths, the racial animus underlying Bryant's death, and the law enforcement victims Mitts targeted, Mitts' case is clearly among the worst of the worst capital cases," the board said.

Even though the original lawyer's alcoholic blackout tactic didn't work, it's unclear what other legal strategy could have produced a different result, the board added.

The state's supply of its execution drug, pentobarbital, expires at month's end, and Mitts will be the last person put to death with that drug in Ohio if the execution is carried out.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has said it will likely announce its new execution method by Oct. 4.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus .