Byrd Arrives At Lucasville While Attorneys Scramble

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Convicted killer John W. Byrd Jr. arrived at the death chamber in Lucasville on Monday as his attorneys scrambled to get federal and state courts to halt his Tuesday execution.

"His mood is calm and cooperative. He's been quiet, creating no problems," said Andrea Dean, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Byrd, 38, is to die by injection for the 1983 murder of Monte Tewksbury, 40, who was stabbed during a robbery at a suburban Cincinnati convenience store where he worked.

Tewksbury, a Procter & Gamble Co. employee, was moonlighting to pay for his daughter's education. Byrd's execution is scheduled exactly three years after Ohio put to death its first inmate since 1963.

Byrd was moved from death row at the Mansfield Correctional Institution on Monday and arrived at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville just before noon.

He was in a holding cell in the death house, where he will stay until the morning, and he spoke to his attorneys by phone throughout the afternoon, Dean said.

Byrd chose a T-bone steak with steak sauce, a chef salad with bleu cheese dressing and grape soda for his "special" meal, which will be served at 4 p.m., she said. It's not called his last meal because he would be allowed to eat later if he were hungry.

On Monday evening, Byrd will have three hours to visit with relatives, which likely will include his mother, Mary Ray, and sister, Kim Hamer, as well as a spiritual adviser and his attorneys, Dean said.

Public Defender David Bodiker, whose office represents Byrd, said he planned to file an appeal in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Bodiker argues that killing Byrd would violate his constitutional rights because he is innocent. Joe Case, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery's office, said Byrd's attorneys raised the same arguments several courts already had rejected.

Judge James Graham in federal court in Columbus denied Bodiker's request for a delay Sunday, ruling that Byrd had to get permission from the appeals court in Cincinnati before filing any other appeal.

On the state level, the Ohio Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a motion filed Friday by a group of central Ohio clergy known as the Interfaith Coalition to Stop Executions to postpone indefinitely Byrd's death sentence.

The court also was considering a request by Columbus attorney Cliff Arnebeck to postpone Byrd's execution for one day. Arnebeck, who was hired Sunday by Byrd and his family, said he needs time to get a videotaped statement from Byrd for use in a potential wrongful-death lawsuit against the state.

Arnebeck said he spent one hour on the phone with Byrd on Monday afternoon and recorded a sworn statement from Byrd that he is innocent.

Byrd has insisted that he cannot remember the events of the night Tewksbury was killed because he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. He said evidence does not prove he was guilty of killing Tewksbury.

"Based on the facts of the case, he was not a part of any plan either to rob anybody or kill anybody," Arnebeck said. "He's innocent."

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ended an appeal by Byrd based on his "actual innocence." Gov. Bob Taft denied Byrd clemency the next day.

The "actual innocence" appeal had been based in part on a confession signed by John Brewer, an accomplice in the robbery who claimed that he stabbed Tewksbury. Prosecutors discounted the confession, saying Brewer is trying to spare Byrd's life.

Byrd has been to Ohio's death house before. He came within 45 minutes of being executed in 1994 when his appeals lapsed, but a ruling by the appeals court in Cincinnati delayed the procedure.

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