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Crime and Courts


Death-row inmate who committed suicide had another chance to appeal
Cleveland inmate Billy Slagle killed himself Sunday morning
by WKSU's STATEHOUSE CORRESPONDENT JO INGLES


Reporter
Jo Ingles
 
New information could have saved Cleveland death-row inmate Billy Slagle from execution.
Courtesy of State of Ohio
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In The Region:

Billy Slagle of Cleveland killed himself without knowing there was a chance his execution could have been stayed at the last minute. Assistant federal Public Defender Vicki Werneke says a new appeal effort had begun Friday evening.

In an interview with Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles, Werneke says her colleague, Joe Wilhelm, got new information from Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim Ginty’s office and Werneke explains how it could have made a difference.

 

LISTEN: WERNEKE ON APPEAL

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LISTEN: Public defender explains why Slagle's last appeal had a chance

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Werneke – The original trial prosecutor, the assistant prosecutor, had informed McGinty’s office that at the time of the trial in 1988, the prosecutor then, the head prosecutor John Corrigan, had authorized a plea deal to Mr. Slagle that if he pled guilty, he would get life imprisonment with parole after 30 years.

And according to the assistant prosecutor, he had told defense counsel about it and the defense counsel had rejected the plea offer. We were surprised by that because when we had met with Billy back in May, getting ready for his clemency hearing, … he had lamented the fact that if he had been offered a deal at the time of the trial, he would have taken it because he had lots of remorse and had accepted responsibility for what he had done even back at the trial in 1988.

Ingles – And so he never knew about this at the time – the attorneys did not tell him?

Werneke- Correct. Apparently, as far as we can tell, as far as we know, Billy never knew that there was a deal offered at the time of the trial and we think he would have taken it.

Ingles – What difference does this make now? Would you have been able to go back and get an appeal based on this or what?

Werneke –That’s what our plans were. By the time Joe got off the phone with McGinty, it was 5:30. I was still driving back from the prison because it was a four-hour drive. And we had got our hopes up. … We were already strategizing about what we were going to be doing. And then about 7 o'clock Friday night, Matt Meyer, assistant county prosecutor, called Joe on his cell phone and said, 'Are you going to be filing a stay of execution with the Ohio Supreme Court?'

And Joe said, 'Yes, that’s one of the things we immediately thought of was to file another stay of execution on Monday morning.' And Matt Mayer told Joe “We … are not going to oppose it.”

Joe and I came in on Saturday and prepared a motion with the court, Joe had typed up what was going to be an affidavit based on the conversation he had with Mr. McGinty and we were going to submit that Monday morning. …. And the fact that it was going to be unopposed by the prosecutors, which would be the only entity that could object, we felt rather confident that the Ohio Supreme Court would stay the execution.

If we had any thought that he was going to hurt himself, obviously we would have informed the prison that we were concerned about him hurting himself too,

Werneke says it’s difficult to communicate with prisoners over the weekend, and she had no indication that Slagle was thinking about suicide. He was found hanging in his cell at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, early Sunday morning.

 

Listener Comments:

Really? "It's difficult to communicate with prisoners over the weekend." Right especially when its about someone who's on DEATH row.. its not like its urgent or important or anything.. you know the usual, life, death.. they're the same thing, there's no urgency in trying to not let the inmate enjoy the beautiful sunny weather we have outside when they're able to maybe see it in windows when they walk the hallways every now and then.. no, no urgency, this makes complete sense...

Where's your heart?
And how is 30 years in prison with parole better?
Inmates should not be in a situation where they are allowed to kill themselves.. this was obvious neglect.

I don't know his crime, but what disgusts me from this article is the lack of obvious care. Lots of prisons go out of their way to ensure that the inmates don't have any means to hurt others or themselvs.. It doesn't seem like that was done here.

Disapointing.


Posted by: Natalie (Cleveland) on August 12, 2013 8:08AM
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