Supreme Court denies last-minute clemency bid for man who killed teen during an escape from custody

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Supreme Court denies last-minute clemency bid for man who killed teen during an escape from custody

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Lawyers for condemned Franklin County killer Alva Campbell Jr. had argued he was too sick to be executed.

An Ohio man lost his final bid to avoid execution after the U.S. Supreme Court today denied his motion to stay execution of his death sentence.

The ruling sets the stage for the Wednesday morning execution of Alva Campbell Jr., 69, who shot a teenager after stealing his car during an escape from custody.

Campbell is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 10 a.m. at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

This morning Campbell made his last meal request of pork chops, greens, sweet potato pie, mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese and milk, according to JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

He was transported this morning to Lucasville, the site of the state’s execution chamber.

If the execution goes forward as scheduled, Campbell would be the third person executed this year, when the state ended a three-year halt in executions after controversy over the prolonged execution of Dennis McGuire using a previously untested combination of lethal injection drugs.

The state now uses a three-drug combination that ends with potassium chloride, which stops the heart. 

Lower courts, the state Parole Board and Ohio Governor John Kasich have all rejected efforts by Campbell to be spared death for the 1997 killing of Charles Dials.

A federal judge in Dayton also rejected Campbell’s request to be executed by firing squad, a request made because of concerns that Campbell may not have accessible veins suitable for the three-drug lethal injection used by the state to execute prisoners, said David Stebbins, Campbell’s federal public defender.

In court filings Stebbins has cited the condemned man’s multiple health problems, which include issues with his veins, asthma, emphysema and an external colostomy bag.

“I anticipate they may have some difficulties,” Stebbins said. “He cannot breathe if he has to lie flat. And the process takes some time, so they’ve arranged a wedge to sit him up at a 40-degree angle.”

Stebbins said he was given a report by the warden that medical personnel were able to palpate Campbell’s veins in his legs and arms in order to find one suitable for injection.

The state agreed to use the wedge-shaped pillow on the gurney, Smith said.

“Mr. Campbell’s medical condition and history are being assessed and considered in order to identify any necessary accommodations or contingencies for his execution,” she said.

The parole board also rejected arguments that Campbell be spared because of violence he said he suffered as a child from his parents and then in foster care.

“He had as bad a childhood as I’ve encountered in 35 years of doing this work,” Stebbins said. “It was significant for the level of violence inflicted on him by his parents.”

The state parole board in an Oct. 20 report acknowledged Campbell’s dysfunctional and traumatic childhood but said it needed to be weighed against the seriousness of his crimes, including a previous murder conviction.

“Those murders and other crimes committed by Campbell over the course of many years reflect a disturbing propensity to engage in extreme and senseless violence, a propensity that never abated despite multiple incarcerations and attempts by the state to rehabilitate him,” according to the parole board’s report.

The board voted 11 to 1 that he be denied clemency, and on Thursday Kasich denied Campbell’s request for executive clemency.

Campbell was first convicted at age 19 in 1967 of shooting a state trooper, armed robbery and grand larceny. He was paroled in 1971 and then shot a man to death during a robbery in Cleveland in 1972. He received a life sentence for first- degree murder but was paroled after 20 years. In 1997 he was arrested again in Franklin County, this time for aggravated robbery.

He had been shot during the robbery and pretended to be paralyzed as he was driven by a Franklin County deputy from the Jackson Pike Jail for his arraignment at Franklin County Municipal Court. Campbell overpowered Deputy Teresa Harrison and took her gun as she attempted to help him out of her vehicle at the loading dock, according to a narrative from court records included in the Parole Board report.

Dials was at the court to pay a traffic ticket. He was driving away in his pickup truck when Campbell stopped him, pulled open the door, forced Dials to move over and drove off. Campbell later ordered Dials to get onto the floor board of his truck and then shot him twice.

Campbell was captured after stealing another car and attempting to kidnap two other people and then hiding in a tree, where authorities found him after a chase.

In a Sunday tweet, death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean called for people to contact Kasich to stop the execution. Ohioans to Stop Executions also oppose his execution and is holding vigils for Campbell in various locations across the state today and tomorrow.

The last person executed in Ohio was Gary Otte, 45, who killed two people in a Cleveland suburb in 1992 and was put to death on Sept. 13.

Child killer Ronald R. Phillips, 43, was executed on July 26 for the 1993 death of a three-year-old girl he had raped and beaten.

A reporter for the Dayton Daily News is one of five reporters who will witness the execution, Smith said. 

Witnesses for the victim include Dials’ sister, brother and uncle. Witnesses for Campbell include Stebbins, two other attorneys and a friend.

Stebbins said he has witnessed other executions at Ohio’s execution chamber.

“It’s awfully sterile. It’s like being in a hospital but they are executing the guy,” Stebbins said. “It’s very cold. They try to keep it solemn.”

By the numbers

53: Number of Ohio inmates executed between 1981 and March 2017.

85: Number of victims killed by those inmates.

43: Number of female victims.

19: Number of victims who were children.

45.73: Average age of inmates put to death.

19: Number of African-American inmates executed during that span.

25: Number of victims who were African-American.

34: Number of executed inmates who were Caucasian.

56: Number of victims who were Caucasian.

53: Number of Males.

0: Number of Females.

16.63: Average number of years on death row prior to execution.

Source: Ohio Attorney General’s office

Note: Data does not include Gary Otte, 45, executed in September, and Ronald R. Phillips, 43, executed in July.

Other stories by Lynn Hulsey

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