Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ohio: Inside the Getsy Clemency Recommendation

On July 9th, the State's Adult Parole Authority met to consider the case of Jason A. Getsy. The seven-member body recommended clemency for Getsy, who has been in prison for some 13 years now, but is scheduled to be executed next month. Why was clemency, in the form of a life sentence without the possibility of parole, recommended to the Governor?

First, it was noted that Getsy "cooperated completely" with the investigation of the murder. At trial, the jury was "limited" in their ability to consider Getsy's psychosocial history and such information could have affected the mitigation/sentencing phase of the trial. It is said that Getsy has taken "full responsibility" for his actions and has "continuously expressed remorse" for the victims and their family. He also has a record of "excellent institutional adjustment" (suggesting he would "do well in the general population"). Such a record might very well shed some light as to the real nature of the relationship between Getsy and his codefendants - a topic of considerable debate.

More dramatically, one of the other defendants in the case was singled out as the ringleader, but then acquitted of "hiring" Getsy to commit the murder. This ringleader theory was generally pushed aside during Getsy's trial, but Getsy was convicted of being hired by the previously mentioned defendant! A third defendant, whose culpability appears strikingly similar to Getsy's received a life sentence. Such outcomes "troubled" appellate court judges and, apparently, members of the Adult Parole Authority.

Were these considerations outlined in support of a pardon or a commutation to end the sentence, they might be worthy of all of the instant scorn and skepticism that one could muster. But, of course, that is not the proper context for assessment. Here, the plea is for mercy in the face of the ultimate penalty: death. In that context, one would hope that the Governor would weigh these same considerations both in terms of the case and in terms of policy. Is this the kind of case the death penalty is meant for? Are these circumstances appropriate for such a punishment?

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