Board to rule on mercy for condemned Ohio killer

ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS AP Legal Affairs Writer Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Ohio Parole Board is ready to announce its decision on whether a condemned killer who shot two people including a police officer should be spared.

Death row inmate Harry Mitts is scheduled to die next month after being convicted of shooting the pair, including a Garfield Heights police sergeant, in suburban Cleveland in 1994.

Mitts told the parole board in an interview this month he'll accept whatever decision it makes. The board planned a ruling Tuesday morning.

Much of Mitts' parole board hearing last week focused on whether the killings were racially motivated. One of his victims, John Bryant, was black, and Mitts made racist statements about blacks just before shooting Bryant, according to court records.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty dismissed Mitts' claims that he was not a racist.

"He is a racist cop killer who is deserving of his punishment," McGinty said in a motion presented to the board asking it to deny clemency.

Mitts is remorseful and accepts responsibility for what he did, his attorney, Jeff Kelleher, told the board. He denied that Mitts was racist.

"Mr. Bryant died not because he was black," Kelleher said Monday in an interview. "He died because he had the misfortune of meeting a man who became unhinged in the summer of '94."

Mitts was also convicted and sentenced to die for killing Sgt. Dennis Gliver, who was white.

Kelleher said he disagrees with the defense put on by Mitts' original lawyer, who blamed Mitts' drinking for the shootings.

"He acknowledges he was drinking and was intoxicated, but he knew what he was doing, and he acted intentionally, and that's part of his full acceptance of responsibility," Kelleher said.

The state's supply of its execution drug, pentobarbital, expires at month's end and Mitts will be the last person put to death with that drug in Ohio if his execution is carried out.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has said it will likely announce its new execution method by Oct. 4.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus