New law triggers parole hearings for people convicted as minors

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Two local men convicted of murder 30-40 years ago were recently denied, though.

A new Ohio law gives people imprisoned for crimes committed during their youth a chance to receive early parole hearings, and two Miami Valley men who were reviewed by the parole board because of the law were recently denied.

Clarence Nottingham, who entered prison in 1985 for a Greene County murder, and David Michael, who entered prison in 1991 for two counts of murder in Miami County, will remain in prison after the Ohio Parole Board made their decision.

The men are two of about 20 offenders who will receive a parole hearing this year because of Senate Bill 256, which became effective in April.

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David Michael/ Contributed Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections

David Michael/ Contributed Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections

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David Michael/ Contributed Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections

The law abolished life without parole sentences for minors and gave most offenders who committed their crimes as juveniles a chance to get out of prison sooner. Aggravated homicide offenses and terrorism-related murder offenses are excluded, according to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

The bill was sponsored by former state Senator Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) and current state Senator Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and was signed by the governor in January.

“Life without hope may be one of the cruelest punishments, and life without parole offers no hope, no motivation to work hard, seek forgiveness, or change to become a better person,” Lehner said in a statement after the bill passed the Senate. “If we can provide hope for our troubled children, we may see more redemption in our prison system.”

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Some courts had previously ruled that juveniles cannot receive mandatory life without parole sentences because they have “diminished culpability and heightened capacity for change,” the Ohio Public Defenders Office said in a summary.

But in April, the U.S. Supreme Court switched course, ruling 6-3 that a finding of “permanent incorrigibility” is not necessary to sentence a minor to life without parole.

And while those previously convicted will be heard by the parole board sooner, that doesn’t mean they will be freed. David Michael had his first parole hearing in October and was denied, Ohio Parole Board records show.

“Offender has served just shy of 31 years for the shooting death of two victims, shooting of a third victim resulting in her being permanently disabled, and robbery of a bank that occurred when he was 17 years old,” the record says. “This case is aggravated by multiple victims, extreme violence and community opposition. The offender has taken relevant programming, has appropriate conduct since 2014, a supportive release plan, demonstrates insight, remorse and motivation to succeed.

“However, this does not outweigh the aggravating factors at this time. After considering relevant factors, the board does not consider the inmate suitable for release at this time,” the records say.

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Clarence Nottingham was accused in a shooting that took place at a mobile home when he was 16, former Greene County Prosecutor Stephen Haller said. Haller prosecuted Nottingham and said he doesn’t believe he should be released from prison.

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Clarence Nottingham/ Contributed Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections

Clarence Nottingham/ Contributed Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections

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Clarence Nottingham/ Contributed Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections

“The defendant shot and killed the homeowner through the door and stepped over his body and ransacked the mobile home,” Haller said, adding that Nottingham had an accomplice. “The defendant knew this family and had been there before and they thought he was a friend of theirs.”

Nottingham had a hearing with the parole board on Nov. 4, according to records. He was denied.

“This case is aggravated by the brutality of the offense, the offender’s institutional misconduct, and strong community opposition,” the record says. “The offender was convicted of shooting and killing the male victim through the door of the victim’s trailer. Today Offender Nottingham claims he never shot the gun and never killed anyone.”

It says that Nottingham had poor institutional adjustment for many years and recently seems to be trying to behave better. However, the board ruled that he could benefit from additional programming.

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