Saturday, April 21, 2001
Appeals judges say Scott is fit to die
Case returns to state Supreme Court
By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau
COLUMBUS Jay D. Scott may be schizophrenic but he's legally competent to be executed, an Ohio appeals court ruled Friday.
The 2-1 decision from the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals was a setback for Mr. Scott, who hoped to overturn his execution because he is mentally ill. The Ohio Supreme Court stopped his scheduled execution minutes before it was to have taken place Tuesday to give the appeals court more time to consider his sanity.
Scott is unquestionably ill, but he produced no evidence to indicate that his affliction, mental or otherwise, disrupted his ability to understand the nature of the death penalty and why it is imposed, the majority opinion wrote.
The ruling reflects Ohio law, which declares a person competent to be executed as long as he understands he will die for a crime he committed.
Judges Anne L. Kilbane, Patricia Ann Blackmon and Timothy E. McMonagle agreed Mr. Scott did meet the state standard. They split 2-1 over Mr. Scott's second argument, that the constitution bars executions of mentally ill inmates as cruel and inhumane.
Executing a person with the degree of mental illness demonstrated by this record would diminish this society and skew the balance between the general security and the individual life, wrote Judge McMonagle.
The judge said he would urge the Ohio Supreme Court to indefinitely suspend Mr. Scott's execution until the U.S. Supreme Court was given a chance to hear the case.
The state asked the Ohio Supreme Court to set a new execution date late Friday. One could be established as early as 15 days after the Supreme Court files an order.
That's what I would suggest, said Christopher Frey, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor.
One of Mr. Scott's attorneys, John Pyle, said he plans to appeal the appeals court decision to the Ohio Supreme Court and ask for up to 45 days to file it.
That's the standard amount of time allotted for appeals, Mr. Pyle said.
What happens next is entirely up to the seven Supreme Court justices. They could set a new execution date or allow 45 days for attorneys to file notice that they will appeal. They also could order an expedited appeal process that would require both sides to quickly file their arguments.
The earliest the justices can consider the case is during their regular procedural meeting Tuesday.
So far, all that the court has said is they will discuss it Tuesday, said Jay Wuebbold, an Ohio Supreme Court spokesman. How it proceeds from there, no one can tell at this point.
Mr. Scott was sentenced to die for the 1983 shooting death of Cleveland delicatessen owner Vinnie M. Prince. Court records show the elderly store owner had filled Mr. Scott's order for bologna and crackers when he shot her in the chest.
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