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Government & Politics

Attorneys In Akron Arson Case Want the Death Penalty Removed Over Former Police Chief's Racial Slur

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The recent accusations against former Akron Police Chief James Nice could become a major issue in a completely separate, high-profile case.

Stanley Ford has been charged with setting three fires that killed nine people in Akron. At the time of the indictment, James Nice was chief. He resigned last month, and one of the reasons was his reported use of the N-word in a private conversation. Ford is black, Nice is white, and now Ford’s attorneys say race played a part in their client facing the death penalty.

Dean Carro – a professor of law emeritus at the University of Akron – says proving white and black defendants were treated differently could be difficult.

“Even to get to that data, they have a tough burden. Assuming they get that data, they still have to prove that this was not a function of prosecutorial discretion, but it was motivated by race.

“It would have to be established pretty clearly that the chief not only held these privately held views about African-Americans, but expressed those and that got turned into a policy or a decision or a discretionary determination to charge. That seems pretty far away from the chief.”

Carro adds that the defense motion could also be hampered by an unusual move made by prosecutors prior to the indictment. They allowed Ford’s attorneys to present mitigating circumstances that could have influenced the decision to add a death-penalty specification.