CLEMENCY: Ohio Governor Commutes Death Sentence Because of Doubts About Defendant's Role

On June 8, Ohio Governor John Kasich (pictured) granted clemency to Shawn Hawkins, commuting his death sentence to life without parole because of doubts about his role in a double murder. Hawkins was scheduled for execution on June 14. In May, the Ohio Parole Board unanimously recommended to spare Hawkins’ life, citing conflicting statements by the sole eyewitness and possible involvement of other individuals who had not been fully investigated. Republicans Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio Secretary of State and 2006 gubernatorial candidate, former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, and state Sen. Bill Seitz all wrote letters to Gov. John Kasich or to the Parole Board on behalf of Hawkins. Sen. Seitz stated, “[T]here is no reason to end Mr. Hawkins’ life on something so utterly flimsy as mishandled and inconclusive fingerprints and the testimony of a witness with every motive to lie… .” Hawkins is the first death row inmate to receive clemency from Governor Kasich since he took office in January, and the seventh to be spared since Ohio resumed executions in 1999.

(A. Welsh-Huggins, “Ohio governor spares condemned killer of 2,” Associated Press, June 8, 2011; also, earlier DPIC posting about the case). Ohio has carried out 45 executions since 1999. See Clemency, Innocence and Life Without Parole.