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Courts and Crime

The only woman on Ohio's death row gets at least a temporary reprieve
The Ohio Supreme Court against finds problems with a Trumbull County judge's sentence

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
Donna Roberts, convicted of murdering her ex-husband in 2003, has twice had her death sentence overturned.
Courtesy of State of Ohio
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For the second time, the Ohio Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence of a now 69-year-old Trumbull County woman. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on today’s decision, which still leaves open the possibility that the only woman now on death row in Ohio will end up back there.

LISTEN: Ohio's high court on the Roberts sentencing

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Donna Roberts and her lover were both convicted in 2003 of killing her ex-husband, Robert Fingerhut, to try to collect more than half a million dollars in life insurance. She was sentenced to death, becoming the only woman on Ohio’s death row. But the Ohio Supreme Court overturned that in 2006, saying the judge had improperly allowed the prosecutor to help draft his sentence.

The case went back to the trial court, along with a high court order for the judge to “personally review” among other things “any relevant mitigating evidence.”

But the high court now says Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge John Stuard did not fulfill its order, as evidenced by his failing to mention any of Roberts’ defenses in his memo sentencing her – again -- to death.

Says the opinion by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor:  “We find that the sentencing opinion is so inadequate as to severely handicap our ability to exercise our power of independent review.” It sent the case back to Trumbull County for another sentencing.

The opinion was 4-2. The court’s seventh justice, William O’Neill concurred, but says that the judge should be prohibited now from having another chance to send Roberts back to death row.

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