Taft Denies Clemency For Man Facing Execution

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Gov. Bob Taft refused on Monday to stop the execution of a man convicted of raping and strangling an 11-year-old girl 20 years ago.

Robert Buell, 62, is scheduled to die by injection Wednesday. State and federal appeals are pending.

His lawyers say prosecutors withheld evidence that witnesses had been hypnotized, but state and federal appeals courts have ruled prosecutors did not act improperly and the witnesses were not crucial to Buell's conviction.

Buell, a former Akron city worker who lived in Clinton, was convicted of killing Krista Harrison, who was kidnapped July 17, 1982, from a park across the street from her home in Marshallville in northeast Ohio. Her body was found six days later along a country road.

The Ohio Parole Board had unanimously recommended against clemency. The governor could have reduced Buell's sentence to life in prison.

"In spite of the overwhelming evidence of his guilt, Mr. Buell is unrepentant and has failed to accept responsibility for the death," Taft said in a statement.

Four men have been executed since Taft took office in 1999. He denied clemency each time.

Taft noted that the highest state and federal courts found that Buell received a fair trial and had adequate legal representation.

"I find that the aggravating circumstances and brutality of this crime, as well as Mr. Buell's other extensive and violent conduct, outweigh any mitigating factors, and I can find no compelling reason to grant clemency in this case," Taft said.

Buell lawyer Jeffry Kelleher said he was considering challenging the clemency process in federal court.

"The parole board accepted and considered and relied upon a last-minute barrage of unproven rumors and innuendoes when they made the recommendation," Kelleher said. "They dwelt on matters outside this case. It threatened his due process rights."

Prosecutors say Buell's conviction was based on physical evidence, including orange carpet fibers on the body that matched a roll in his home and jeans and a shirt found near the girl that were similar to his clothing.

Buell came close to dying in January 1996. He was served his final meal and awaited a court decision until 17 minutes after the scheduled execution, when a stay was upheld, allowing his federal appeals to continue. His last federal appeal was denied in December.

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