Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Thursday delayed the execution of a killer set to die next week, citing a letter he received from a juror who asked that the inmate be spared.
The Republican Kasich issued a reprieve for Raymond Tibbetts that pushed his February 13 execution forward to mid-October.
Kasich wants the Ohio Parole Board to consider a letter written by ex-juror Ross Geiger, who has said jurors weren’t given enough information about Tibbetts’ tough childhood.
The parole board voted 11-1 last year against mercy for Tibbetts.
Unlikely advocate: Ross Geiger (left) was among the jurors who sentenced Raymond Tibbetts to death in 1998 for a brutal murder. He wrote a letter to Ohio Governor John Kasich asking for him to spare the inmate’s life, and Kasich has granted a reprieve of execution until October
In the January 30 letter, Geiger said he believes he and other jurors were misled about the ‘truly terrible conditions’ of Tibbetts’ upbringing.
‘After reviewing the material, from the perspective of an original juror, I have deep concerns about the trial and the way it transpired,’ Geiger wrote in a letter to the governor. ‘This is why I am asking you to be merciful.’
Geiger, of suburban Cincinnati, said he was relieved the governor paid attention to such an important issue.
Since ‘the issue was important enough for me to send a letter, then it has to be important enough for me to follow through with the parole board if they ask,’ Geiger told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Tibbetts, 60, was sentenced to die for stabbing Fred Hicks to death at Hicks’ home in 1997. Tibbetts also received life imprisonment for fatally beating and stabbing his wife, 42-year-old Judith Crawford, during an argument that same day over Tibbetts’ crack cocaine habit.
Geiger sent a letter to Ohio Gov John Kasich, asking him to show Tibbetts mercy, claiming the jury was misled about the defendant’s ‘truly terrible’ childhood
The 67-year-old Hicks had hired Crawford as a caretaker and allowed the couple to stay with him.
Hamilton County prosecutors have argued that Tibbetts’ background doesn’t outweigh his crimes. That includes stabbing Crawford after he’d already beaten her to death, then repeatedly stabbing Hicks, a ‘sick, defenseless, hearing-impaired man in whose home Tibbetts lived,’ they told the parole board.
‘In nearly every case this board reviews, inmates assert that their poor childhoods, drugs, or some other reason mitigate their actions,’ Ron Springman, an assistant Hamilton County prosecutor, told the board in a 2017 filing.
‘The mitigation in this case does not overcome the brutality of these murders.’
Jurors heard ‘mostly anecdotal stories’ from a psychiatrist called on Tibbetts’ behalf about his troubled childhood and poor foster care, Geiger told Kasich.
Geiger said he was shocked last month reading testimony presented at Tibbetts’ clemency hearing about the conditions Tibbetts and his siblings lived through in foster care.
At night, Tibbetts and his brothers were tied to a single bed at the foster home, weren’t fed properly, were thrown down stairs, had their fingers beaten with spatulas and were burned on heating registers, according to Tibbetts’ application for mercy last year.
In their efforts to save Tibbetts from a lethal injection, his lawyers argued that their client was an early victim of the devastating opioid epidemic.
Geiger, a self-described conservative Republican, and a Trump voter, said he didn’t feel like he had a choice at the time of the sentencing 20 years ago
According to documents provided to Kasich by federal public defender Erin Barnhart, Tibbetts was doing fine until he was inappropriately prescribed painkillers for a work injury in the mid-1990s.
‘We know now just how devastating and deadly opioid addiction can be, and our government officials are rightly working to combat this epidemic on several fronts,’ Barnhart wrote to Kasich last year.
Tibbetts deserves mercy because of ‘his addiction and unanswered requests for help with his struggle,’ Barnhart wrote.
Drug overdoses killed a record 4,050 Ohioans in 2016. Kasich has pushed several initiatives to slow painkiller prescribing by doctors.
In the new arguments presented to the governor, psychologists who examined Tibbetts say the opioid prescriptions he received in the 1990s furthered his problems.
‘Tibbetts’ is a sad case of someone who was strongly biologically predisposed to drug and alcohol problems,’ Bob Stinson, a Columbus psychologist and chemical dependency counselor, told Kasich in an August 13 letter. ‘His significant trauma history almost guaranteed problems would materialize in his own life.’
During the 1998 trial, Geiger managed people processing health insurance claims. He described himself as a conservative Republican at the time.
Today he’s a commercial banker who voted for President Donald Trump, ‘a pro-growth, economic liberty kind of guy.’
He says he made the decision to write Kasich on his own. He also feels sympathy for Tibbetts’ victims, who deserve justice, he said.
‘In a selfish way this is about my feeling duped by the system,’ Geiger said. ‘The state asked me to carry the responsibility for such a decision but withheld information from me that was important.’
Geiger’s letter matters because the parole board wasn’t aware of his regrets when it ruled against Tibbetts, said Erin Barnhart, a federal public defender representing the inmate.
‘Kasich is the only person who has the ability to act on it at this point,’ Barnhart said.
In 2008, the Oklahoma governor spared death row inmate Kevin Young based on the recommendation of the state parole board.
The board heard recorded statements from jurors who said they didn’t want to sentence Young to death but didn’t receive clarification when they asked whether Young would be eligible for parole if sentenced to life without parole.