Thursday, October 9, 2003

Cop killer challenges Ohio death penalty

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A 5-year-old state law that made killing a police officer a death penalty offense is being challenged by the first person sentenced under the measure.

Attorneys for Quisi Bryan, 33, of Cleveland, argued before the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday that the enhanced status of police officers as victims under the Ohio death penalty law is unconstitutional.

Bryan - also known as Jeffrey Booker - was convicted of killing Cleveland Patrolman Wayne Leon, 32, during a traffic stop in 2000.

In 1998, the General Assembly had expanded Ohio's death penalty specifications to include killing an on-duty police officer or armed corrections officer.

To obtain a death sentence previously, prosecutors would have had to prove that Bryan had planned to kill Leon. Under the new law, prosecutors had to prove only that Bryan intended to kill Leon when the slaying occurred.

The law was inspired by the slaying of another Cleveland police officer in 1996. That killer was sentenced to life in prison.

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