Board recommends clemency for death row inmate

By JOHN McCARTHY, Associated Press Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The state Parole Board on Friday recommended that Gov. Bob Taft grant clemency for a death row inmate convicted of killing a man with a kitchen knife, saying the jury was unable to consider all evidence.
It marks the first time since Ohio resumed executions in 1999 that the board has recommended clemency.
Jerome Campbell, 41, has maintained his innocence, claiming DNA testing on his bloody tennis shoes support his claim.
The board wrote in its 6-2 ruling that Campbell's attorneys "presented credible evidence for the majority members of this board to question any sustained confidence or reliability in the jury's recommendation."
Campbell is scheduled to be executed on May 14.
The board recommended that Taft reduce Campbell's sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the Dec. 23, 1988, killing of Henry Turner, 78, in Cincinnati.
Taft's lawyers will review the board's recommendation and other evidence in the case before making a report to the governor, spokesman Orest Holubec said. Taft previously has denied clemency, following the board's recommendations, in the seven death penalty cases to come before him.
"The Parole Board recommendation is very important, but he takes his personal responsibility very seriously," Holubec said.
Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker, whose office represents Campbell, said he was delighted with the decision.
"What we have to assume is that the strongest evidence was that he was innocent or the conviction was not as firmly based as you want," Bodiker said.
The board also questioned the testimony of two witnesses at the trial, Ronys Clardy and Angelo Roseman, who were serving sentences for different crimes in the same jail as Campbell.
The board said the jury was led to believe that Clardy's only motive for testifying against Campbell was to put him in prison because he was "evil." The board said, though, that Clardy was holding back information hoping to get a deal from prosecutors on a robbery charge.
Roseman was let out on bond after testifying against Campbell and had his case continued until after Campbell's trial, the board said.
"Had the jurors received more accurate information, they might have weighed witness reliability differently," the board said in its ruling.
Campbell's lawyers on Wednesday asked for a new trial to consider previously unavailable evidence.
Campbell was the first death row inmate to take up the state's offer to test any available DNA evidence.
The request filed in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court said the tests last year show the blood was Campbell's and not the victim's.
His attorneys claim prosecutors introduced the shoes as evidence during his 1989 trial to convince the jury that the blood belonged to the victim.
Prosecutors say the shoes were tested during the trial and that the results were inconclusive. They also argue the DNA evidence has no bearing on the case because a prisoner interviewed by police said Campbell was wearing work boots instead of gym shoes at the time of the slaying.
Campbell was convicted of aggravated murder and aggravated burglary. Turner, described as a bootlegger who sold alcohol and cigarettes from his Cincinnati apartment, was killed with a knife taken from his kitchen. His body was found the next day on a stairwell landing in the apartment building.
Authorities said Campbell's fingerprints were found in the building and on a door leading from the hall into Turner's kitchen.
Campbell's lawyer, Joe Wilhelm, said Campbell previously lived in the building and had been at Turner's apartment previously to buy liquor.
Ohio courts and two federal courts have rejected his appeals and upheld his death sentence.
Attorney General Jim Petro's office said Taft should give greater weight to Campbell's court record.
"While the attorney general agrees that all precautions should be afforded in capital cases, in light of the fact Campbell's guilt is not in question, any determination relative to the impact on the jury's original sentence should be left to the courts."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)