Convicted killer, claiming innocence, scheduled to die Wednesday

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Statehouse Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Just before 1 a.m. on a winter morning more than 20 years ago, shopkeeper Robert Robinson was counting money when someone knocked on the door of his Cleveland store.

Moments after letting in a customer who said she needed cough medicine, Robinson lay on the floor dying of gunshots fired through the door.

Ernest Martin, the man convicted of Robinson's Jan. 21, 1983, slaying, is scheduled to die by injection Wednesday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

Martin would be the eighth person Ohio has executed since the state began carrying out the death penalty again in 1999.

Martin, 42, also would be the person executed the longest time after the crime for which he was convicted.

Last September, Robert Buell was executed 20 years and two months after the slaying of his 11-year-old victim. Martin would be executed 20 years and six months after his victim's death.

Martin says he is innocent and has been railroaded by authorities because he is black.

"They're murdering my son, that's all I can say," his mother, Frances Martin, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Martin has declined interview requests, said Andrea Dean, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

The widow of Martin's victim says Martin should die for the crime that killed "a good man."

After "what he did, he deserves it," Anna Robinson, 85, of Cleveland, told the Ohio attorney general's office in a statement taken for Martin's Feb. 28 clemency hearing.

Robinson has also declined interview requests, Dean said. Robinson has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached.

Martin grew up in Cleveland, the fourth of seven brothers and sisters. His parents divorced when he was 4. His father, a roofer, died of cancer in 1984.

"We didn't possess very much, but we always had the necessities: clothing, food and lots of love," Martin wrote in an unpublished 1995 book, "Casualty of Justice."

Martin dropped out of school in the 11th grade after a history of failing classes, according to a report on his background prepared by the Ohio public defender's office.

He committed several crimes as a teenager, including burglary, vandalism and robbery, said a report by the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office.

As an adult, he spent about a year in prison for crimes including assault and carrying a concealed weapon, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors also said Martin plotted to rob Robinson with a gun he stole from a security guard in December 1982.

Martin forced his girlfriend, Josephine Pedro, to help with the robbery by persuading Robinson -- who knew Pedro -- to open the shop after hours, prosecutors said.

Robinson opened the door to Pedro, who asked for medicine for a cough, just before 1 a.m. He then shut and locked the door after she entered. Prosecutors say Martin stood outside the door and fired twice, fatally wounding the store owner.

Prosecutors say Martin, who lived nearby, left the store, went home and changed clothes, then returned to the store to finish the robbery.

Martin says he was inside his apartment when he heard gunshots. He says a man he knew only as Slim robbed the security guard and Robinson. He says he walked to the store to see what happened after the robbery occurred.

Slim never was identified.

Martin also said a witness, E.J. Rieves-Bey, saw him walking toward the store after the shots were fired.

Rieves-Bey did not testify at Martin's June 1983 trial, after prosecutors and Martin's attorneys couldn't find him, according to a report prosecutors prepared for Martin's clemency hearing.

Rieves-Bey told police he saw a man he didn't know running from the store after the shooting. He also saw a man walk toward the store a few minutes later.

At a September 1983 hearing on Martin's motion for a new trial, Rieves-Bey testified he didn't think the man running from the store was Martin. The motion was denied.

Several state and federal courts have upheld Martin's conviction and sentence.

Martin previously said he was mentally retarded and should not be executed.

He dropped that claim two weeks ago, after a psychologist hired by his attorneys determined Martin was not retarded.

Gov. Bob Taft on Friday denied Martin's request for clemency.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)