Thursday, February 21, 2002
Alton Coleman on deck?
Serial killer may be next for execution
By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press
COLUMBUS Serial killer Alton Coleman, convicted of slayings in the Midwest in 1984, could be the next inmate scheduled to die in Ohio.
The state asked the Ohio Supreme Court on Feb. 6 to set an execution date for Mr. Coleman, 45, who also faces death sentences in Indiana and Illinois.
We believe that his case is the next one up, but there's no guarantee with the court system and different issues he can raise, Bret Crow, a spokesman for Attorney General Betty Montgomery, said Wednesday.
The state Tuesday executed John W. Byrd, the third inmate to die since Ohio reinstated the death penalty in 1981 and the first to proclaim his innocence. It was the second execution in eight months, following Jay D. Scott's execution by injection in June.
The Ohio Public Defender's Office said that as many as 10 death row inmates could exhaust their appeals this year.
Most are awaiting a review of their case by the U.S. Supreme Court. Such reviews are very rare, said David Bodiker, the Ohio Public Defender.
The chances of getting one of those things heard is greater than the lottery, Mr. Bodiker said.
Mr. Coleman's attorney, Dale Baich, would not discuss the likelihood of an execution date.
I don't think it's appropriate to make predictions, he said Wednesday. Circumstances in these cases may change, and it doesn't serve the public, the victims or Mr. Coleman to engage in such speculation.
Mr. Coleman, of Waukegan, Ill., received two death sentences in Ohio. One was for the July 11, 1984, strangulation death of Tonnie Storey, 15, of Over-the-Rhine. The second was for the July 13, 1984, beating death of Marlene Walters, 44, of Norwood.
An execution date could depend on the resolution of conflicting rulings by the same federal court.
A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Mr. Coleman's death sentence in the Storey case after concluding that his attorneys didn't adequately represent him in a 1985 trial. The court, however, upheld the conviction.
A different three-judge panel of the court had already upheld Mr. Coleman's death sentence for Mrs. Walters' death.
Mr. Coleman's attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Walters ruling. They argue that because the same two attorneys represented Mr. Coleman in both Ohio cases, it is inconsistent that his sentence be overturned in one case and upheld in the other.
It would be very unfair to execute someone when two different panels of the same court reach conflicting results, Mr. Baich said.
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