This week, Ohio Governor John Kasich commuted a second death sentence this year. Joseph Murphy, convicted of murdering a 72 year old widow in 1987, was scheduled to die at the hands of the state on October 18. Now he will serve a life sentence with no chance of parole, thanks to the Governor and recommendations by the parole board.
The reason for the commutation? Murphy’s troubled childhood which may have played a role in his mental state now and at the time of the murder.
According to the Dispatch, Murphy was a victim of severe child abuse while growing up in Ohio and West Virginia. As a child, he was beaten, raped, starved, tied up, and left in a burning home. He is said to be “borderline mentally retarded” and spent years in mental hospitals and institutions before he took his victim’s life.
Though the murder was a gruesome one, Murphy’s childhood was the catalyst to saving his life.
In 1992 the Ohio Supreme Court voted 4-3 in support of Murphy’s death penalty. Justice Thomas J. Moyer wrote the dissent, which would later be used by Murphy’s attorneys in front of the parole board. The parole board recommended that Kasich commute the sentence and Kasich followed that recommendation this week.
“In all of the death penalty cases I have reviewed, I know of no other case in which the defendant, clearly guilty of the crime as the defendant is here, was as destined for disaster as was Joseph Murphy as a direct result of the conditions to which he was exposed by his family,” said Justice Moyer in his 1992 opinion.
Earlier this year Kasich commuted another death sentence in the case of Shawn Hawkins. This time because the details of Hawkins role in the double-slaying he was convicted of were “frustratingly unclear.”
Kasich has used his power of commutation in several cases. He commuted the controversial prison sentence that was handed down to a mother who was accused of lying about her living address in order to provide her children with a better education. Kelley Williams-Bolar was originally sentenced to prison time for two felony counts. Kasich reduced these to misdemeanors and required probation in lieu of jail time.
While Kasich may be commuting more sentences than his predecessors and his colleagues in other states, this doesn’t mean he is handing out free passes to anyone who has a good reason. Commutations are extremely rare.
If the case against you is based on flimsy evidence or if the prosecution is seeking an unusually harsh sentence, it’s the job of your defense lawyer to help ensure things are handled correctly the first time around so you don’t have to depend on appeals.
If you are accused of a crime, as serious as murder or as minor as pot possession—we can help. Contact us for an Oho criminal defense legal consultation.