Ohio Governor Grants Death Row Reprieve

The Associated Press
Thursday, September 8, 2005; 8:37 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Gov. Bob Taft delayed the execution Thursday of a convicted killer over questions about whether prosecutors presented inaccurate information at a clemency hearing.

Taft ordered the execution of John Spirko delayed until Nov. 15 to allow for a second hearing, which had been requested by the parole board.

Spirko, 59, was convicted of killing a postal worker but says he didn't do it.

"This is the right thing to do," Spirko attorney Alvin Dunn said. "I am hopeful that the parole board will take a very careful look at all the facts and all the evidence and view everything with an open mind."

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported that Timothy Prichard, director of the attorney general's capital crimes office, made false statements last month and mischaracterized evidence regarding what Spirko knew about the 1982 murder of Betty Jane Mottinger, 48, and his whereabouts on the day of the killing.

Attorney General Jim Petro defended Prichard's presentation.

Spirko's execution had appeared imminent. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Carr turned down his request for a new trial and a delay.

Spirko was charged after approaching authorities and offering to trade information about the Mottinger case to help his girlfriend, who was facing charges in an unrelated case. He told investigators details of the 1982 slaying, including what clothes and jewelry Mottinger was wearing that day.

But Spirko's lawyers counter that he thought he was telling authorities what they wanted to hear. They say what he knew came from newspapers and lengthy conversations he had with investigators.

Ohio has executed 16 men since resuming executions in 1999, including seven last year, second in the nation only to Texas. Two other executions are scheduled this year.