Thursday, October 2, 2003

Jury decides on death penalty for man who killed his wife

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer


LEBANON - A convicted killer got his wish: a jury has recommended that he die for the shotgun slaying of his wife, which preceded his effort to kill himself.

The Warren County jury of eight women and four men made that decision Wednesday in the case of Rocky Lee Barton shortly after reconvening after a night's rest in a hotel.

If a judge accepts the jury's recommendation next week, Barton would become the second Warren County inmate on Ohio's death row, joining James Galen Hanna. He was convicted of fatally stabbing his Lebanon Correctional Institution cellmate, Peter Copas, in the eye and brain with a wooden paintbrush handle in 1997.

In the Barton case, the jury deliberated for more than seven hours on whether he should be executed or sentenced to life in prison.

On Monday, the Barton jury deliberated five hours before convicting him of aggravated murder in the Jan. 16 killing of his wife, Kimbirli Jo, 44. On Tuesday, against his lawyers' advice, he testified that he deserved execution.

Mrs. Barton's relatives "let out sighs of relief" when the death-penalty recommendation was announced, Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel said.

Defense lawyer Greg Howard said: "My client accepted the jury's verdict because that's the verdict that he wanted."

Common Pleas Judge Neal B. Bronson has scheduled an Oct. 10 sentencing hearing for Barton.


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