CLEMENCY: Ohio Governor Grants Fifth Clemency

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland granted clemency to Sidney Cornwell, reducing this sentence to life without parole. Cornwell faced execution on November 16 for a 1996 gang-related shooting in Youngstown. Attorneys for Cornwell argued that he grew up in an abusive environment and that he suffered from a genetic condition that contributed to his violent tendencies. The attorneys also said that Cornwell’s death sentence was disproportionate to sentences handed out for similar killings in Mahoning County, and that the jury did not have the option of giving him a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Cynthia Mausser, chairwoman of the state parole board, and the only member who favored clemency for Cornwell said of the evidence presented at the clemency hearing, “I cannot conclude that it would have made no difference to the outcome of the penalty phase, as it seems reasonably probable that a juror may have viewed Cornwell and the other mitigation evidence presented in a more positive light. This evidence is significant enough to question the reliability of the outcome of the penalty phase and conclude that the exercise of executive clemency is warranted.” Governor Strickland granted clemency in two other cases this year: Richard Nields and Kevin Keith. He also commuted John Spirko’s death sentence in 2008 and Jeffrey Hill’s sentence in 2009.

(“Stickland grants clemency to Cornwell,” The Vindicator, November 15, 2010). See Clemency, Life Without Parole and Mental Illness.