COLUMBUS, Ohio - The decision by Ohio's governor to spare a morbidly obese death row inmate on legal grounds unrelated to the prisoner's weight means executions will likely carry on in the state next year.
Gov. John Kasich on Monday commuted the death sentence of Ronald Post to life without the possibility of parole, sparing him for the 1983 shooting death of Elyria motel clerk Helen Vantz in a robbery.
Kasich's decision to grant Post mercy mirrored the recommendation by the state parole board, which said it didn't doubt Post's guilt but said there were too many problems with how he was represented 30 years ago.
Post, who weighs 450 pounds (204 kilograms), never raised the issue of his size with the board. And Kaisch, who commuted Post's sentence to life with no chance of parole, didn't mention Post's obesity claim in his statement. Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said the governor didn't consider Post's obesity claim.
The governor said all criminal defendants, regardless of the heinousness of the crimes, deserve an adequate defence.
"This decision should not be viewed by anyone as diminishing this awful crime or the pain it has caused," Kasich said.
Post's attorneys applauded the decision.
The parole board and Kasich "rightly recognized that, in cases in which the state seeks to execute one of its citizens, our justice system simply must work better than it did in Mr. Post's case," said public defenders Joe Wilhelm and Rachel Troutman.
A scheduled hearing Monday on Post's obesity claim before Columbus federal judge Gregory Frost was delayed and is now moot.
Post argued in federal court that executing him would amount to cruel and unusual punishment. His attorneys said he would suffer "a torturous and lingering death" as executioners tried to find a vein or use a backup method where lethal drugs are injected directly into muscle.
The long-held presumption that Post confessed to the murder to several people has been falsely exaggerated, Post's attorneys have argued. Post admitted involvement in the crime as the getaway driver to a police informant but didn't admit to the killing.
"The death penalty should be reserved for cases where proof of guilt is reliable and the legal system produced a just result," the defence had said. "Neither criteria is met in this case."
Ohio's next execution is March 6, when Frederick Treesh of Lake County is scheduled to die for the 1994 shooting death of an adult bookstore security guard during a robbery.
Ohio has 10 executions scheduled over the next two years.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.