September 30, 2014

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State Supreme Court upholds execution date for child murderer
Written by Joe Awad   
Thursday, January 31, 2013 2:54 PM

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled last week that child-murderer Jeffrey Wogenstahl will be executed May 14, 2015. The case, however, still may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The execution date was determined last February after the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati found that Wogenstahl’s guilt wasn’t offset by comments Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters made to the jury during the original trial.

The Appeals Court found several problems with the prosecution’s conduct during Wogenstahl’s trial in the 1991 death of 10-year-old Amber Garrett, primarily with comments Deters made to the jury about Wogenstahl and his possible motives, according to court records.

Wogenstahl, 52, has been on death row 20 years since his 1993 conviction for abducting, beating and stabbing the child to death. Her body was found in Dearborn County in a woods near Bright.

In February 2012, Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, wrote: “We conclude that, though these comments were likely improper, they were harmless.”

She was joined in the decision by Judge David McKeague and Judge Karen Nelson Moore, but Moore wrote a separate opinion that blasted the prosecution’s conduct.

Prosecutors withheld evidence, denigrated defense lawyers, improperly inflamed the jury, and may have allowed false testimony into the trial, wrote Moore.“The prosecutorial misconduct here was plain and plentiful,” she added.

Deters said last February the attacks on his conduct are desperate attempts by a guilty man to avoid a death sentence.

He also said he hoped the ruling would bring the long appeals process closer to an end.

“We have a 10-year-old girl who was kidnapped and murdered,” said Deters. “I just hope she gets justice some day.”

Evidence now includes a DNA test, requested by Wogenstahl years after his trial, that found a speck of blood in his car matched Amber’s DNA.

Wogenstahl claims he is innocent, and that prosecutors failed to disclose some evidence, and repeatedly made inflammatory comments to the jury.

Last week’s trial is the first in which newly elected Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill, a staunch opponent of capital punishment, participated. O’Neill dissented in setting an execution date, saying “the death penalty is inherently both cruel and unusual, and therefore unconstitutional.” Garrett’s slaying, however, clearly qualifies as a capital murder case, he said.