Death-Row Inmate Gets Hearing

By JOHN McCARTHY, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A death-row inmate whose lawyers claim could be mentally retarded should be spared execution anyway because he is innocent, the lawyers say.

Gregory Lott's mother and half brother were expected to ask the Ohio Parole Board on Tuesday to recommend that Gov. Bob Taft grant clemency. In the four executions that have taken place since Taft took office in 1999, he has denied clemency for all.

Representatives from the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office and Attorney General Betty Montgomery were to argue that Lott deserves to be executed.

Lott, 41, was convicted of the 1986 slaying of John McGrath, who was attacked and set on fire in his East Cleveland home.

Lott is the first Ohio inmate facing execution since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on June 20 that executing mentally retarded inmates is unconstitutional because it is cruel and unusual punishment.

Lott's lawyers say he should be spared execution anyway, arguing that McGrath gave police a description of his killer that does not match Lott. The description was withheld from Lott's lawyers at trial, they say.

Jon Oebker, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor who is fighting Lott's appeal, said McGrath's description was not reliable because it was given to police while he was drifting in and out of consciousness because of his injuries.

The Ohio Public Defender's office, which is representing Lott, told the parole board in its clemency request that Lott's IQ was 72, as measured by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

The accepted norm for retardation is 70, but guidelines accepted by the American Psychiatric Association say a 5-percentage-point margin of error in such testing exists, meaning Lott's IQ could be as low as 67 or as high as 77. The Supreme Court left up to the states how to gauge retardation.

Oebker also questions the defense's definition of Lott's IQ.

Oebker said Lott was measured with a more reliable test that resulted in a score of 86, and Lott's own expert at the trial testified that Lott's IQ was 77.

Lott also has two appeals before the Ohio Supreme Court, one arguing he is retarded and the other maintaining his innocence.

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