Pregnant woman's condemned Ohio killer seeks mercy
Written by ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Legal Affairs Writer   
Friday, 13 December 2013 06:38

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A condemned inmate who raped and killed a pregnant woman deserves mercy because of his chaotic and abusive childhood and the failure of his original attorneys to work hard enough on his behalf, the defendant's new lawyers argued before the Ohio state Parole Board.

Death row prisoner Dennis McGuire also was mentally, physically and sexually abused as a child and has impaired brain function that makes him prone to act impulsively, the lawyers said in a filing with the board, which heard McGuire's case for clemency Thursday.

"Dennis was at risk from the moment he was born. The lack of proper nutrition, chaotic home environment, abuse, lack of positive supervision and lack of positive role models all affected Dennis' brain development," the lawyers said in the filing.

McGuire is scheduled to die Jan. 16 for the February 1989 stabbing death of Joy Stewart in western Ohio's Preble County.

The state plans to use a never-tried lethal injection process on the 53-year-old McGuire, with the specific chemicals to be announced two weeks before the execution.

Those chemicals were to have been used on death row inmate Ron Phillips in November, but he received a reprieve until July after he expressed a desire to donate his organs. In granting the reprieve, Gov. John Kasich said he wanted to allow time for medical experts to study whether Phillips could donate non-vital organs, such as a kidney, before being executed. Phillips' mother has kidney disease and a sister has heart problems.

Ohio's supply of its former drug, pentobarbital, has expired, and FDA-regulated versions are no longer available because the manufacturer has put it off limits for executions.

That leaves Ohio with two choices. The first is a specialty dose of pentobarbital from compounding pharmacies, which are registered with the state but not federally regulated.

The second is a two-drug combination of a sedative, midazolam, and a painkiller, hydromorphone, which has never been used in a U.S. execution.

Prosecutors in Preble County say a death sentence is appropriate for such a shocking crime. Stewart, 22, was newly married and about 30 weeks pregnant when she was killed.

"One can scarcely conceive of a sequence of crimes more shocking to the conscience or to moral sensibilities than the senseless kidnapping and rape of a young, pregnant woman followed by her murder," prosecutors said in their filing with the board.

DNA tests over the years have established McGuire as the killer.

McGuire's attorneys say a plea bargain that was offered to McGuire but rejected should be taken into consideration, since it shows the state at one time didn't believe a death sentence was necessary.

Prosecutors say McGuire's decision not to accept that offer is part of his refusal to accept responsibility for the crime.


Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at

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