By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
COLUMBUS: A condemned killer of two whose request for mercy was rejected Tuesday by the Ohio Parole Board has no additional appeals planned, meaning his fate now rests with Gov. John Kasich.
Harry Mitts Jr. is scheduled to die by injection on Sept. 25 for killing two men, including a suburban Cleveland police officer, during a 1994 outburst at an apartment.
Mitts uttered racial slurs before shooting his first victim, John Bryant, who was black, according to court records. He fired on two police officers as they approached his apartment where he’d taken refuge, wounding one and killing the second, Garfield Heights Sgt. Dennis Glivar.
At trial, Mitts’ attorney argued that Mitts suffered an alcoholic blackout that night and didn’t know what he was doing.
But the lawyer handling Mitts’ appeals and mercy request says there was no basis for that defense.
Attorney Jeff Kelleher says Mitts’ original lawyer missed the chance to tell the full story: that Mitts was depressed and caused the disturbance in hopes of committing suicide by being shot by police.
Mitts knows what he did, takes responsibility and is remorseful, said Kelleher, adding that Mitts was not and is not a racist.
“He was an angry, upset person who did something totally unexpected,” Kelleher said Tuesday. “It’s not the person he was before, it’s not the person he’s been since.”
He said no additional appeals are planned.
Mitts told parole board members earlier this month he would leave the clemency decision up to them.
“Mitts indicated that while he could easily cope with a lifetime of imprisonment, he is also prepared to go home to Jesus,” the report by the parole board said.
It its unanimous ruling, the board said it wasn’t convinced Mitts had taken full responsibility for the crime and it rejected his claim that the shooting wasn’t racially motivated.
“Given the multiple deaths, the racial animus underlying Bryant’s death, and the law enforcement victims Mitts targeted, Mitts’s case is clearly among the worst of the worst capital cases,” the board said.
Even though the original lawyer’s alcoholic blackout tactic didn’t work, it’s unclear what other legal strategy could have produced a different result, the board added.
The state’s supply of its execution drug, pentobarbital, expires at month’s end, and Mitts will be the last person put to death with that drug in Ohio if the execution is carried out.
The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has said it will likely announce its new execution method by Oct. 4.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.