Governor Again Denies Clemency To Condemned Inmate

By JOHN McCARTHY, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Gov. Bob Taft on Friday again denied clemency to John W. Byrd Jr., removing what could be the final barrier to the convicted killer's execution on Tuesday.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday denied Byrd's appeal and refused to stop his execution. Unless Byrd's lawyers find another avenue of appeal, he will be put to death by injection on Tuesday morning in the slaying of a suburban Cincinnati convenience store clerk.

Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker, whose office represents Byrd, said Friday he had not decided whether to pursue another appeal. Byrd claims he is innocent and that an accomplice stabbed the clerk to death during a robbery.

"We will do something today or not. We have considered other possible actions and have made no decisions on them," Bodiker said.

Byrd, 38, has been on death row for half of his life for the 1983 stabbing of Monte Tewksbury, 40.

Taft, who also denied clemency on Sept. 10, reviewed a last-minute plea from Byrd for a reduced sentence that would keep him in prison for life.

"I have carefully reviewed and considered the assertions contained in his letter," Taft said in a statement. "It should be noted that Mr. Byrd's letter contains no new information. Nor does his letter reflect any acceptance of responsibility for this crime or expression of remorse."

Taft said he 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."

Bodiker's office had asked U.S Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens to delay the execution. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati last month refused to overturn Byrd's conviction and death sentence.

Byrd has exhausted all other appeals on his claim of "actual innocence." A robbery accomplice, John Brewer, has admitted stabbing Tewksbury.

However, prosecutors and the Ohio attorney general's office say Brewer is trying to spare Byrd's life. They say Brewer, already serving a life sentence for his role in Tewksbury's slaying, knows he cannot be tried again.

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.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)