A Summit County judge said a proposed six-year prison sentence for a Massillon man convicted in the fatal 2012 bedside shooting of his wife at Akron General Medical Center was “commensurate with the act.”
Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands reviewed the restructured sentencing proposal, which county prosecutors submitted two weeks ago, during a hearing Tuesday in open court.
Rowlands did not act on the proposal, but instead gave both sides 10 days to file additional legal briefs, saying the agreed-upon “goal” of a six-year sentence must fall “squarely within the four corners of the law.”
The defendant, 68-year-old John Edward Wise, was present for the hearing and sat quietly in a wheelchair in red-striped jail clothes.
His wife, Barbara, who was 65, was in the hospital’s neurological intensive care unit when the fatal shooting took place Aug. 4, 2012.
Wise, who had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, testified in his own defense at his trial earlier this month. He told the jury he wanted to end his wife’s suffering after seeing a tear run down her cheek and a grimace that suggested she was in pain. At that moment, he said, he “snapped.”
Several jurors could be seen crying during the subsequent closing arguments.
On Nov. 8, after a little more than three hours of deliberations in the weeklong trial, jurors convicted Wise of all charges in the case: aggravated murder, murder and felonious assault. Rowlands said the mandatory, minimum sentence under Ohio law is 23 years to life.
Six days after the verdicts, however, prosecutors cited case law in which the state would have a recommended sentencing option on a lesser charge of manslaughter. To sentence Wise for aggravated murder, Summit Assistant Prosecutor Brian LoPrinzi wrote in his Nov. 14 motion, “would be unduly harsh based upon the unique circumstances of this case.”
Even though Wise was unwilling to resolve the case in a plea deal before the verdict was in, the motion stated, the prosecutor’s office would agree that sentencing Wise for manslaughter “was and remains, a fair and just resolution to a tragic event.”
Rowlands set a Dec. 10 deadline for filing the supplemental briefs and said sentencing could occur sometime after that date.
She said she spent the past two weeks studying case law under what she termed these “unorthodox conditions.” Rowlands acknowledged that prosecutors, indeed, have a right to elect the felony count on which the defendant is to be sentenced.
But to do so under a lesser offense of manslaughter, which was not in the specific jury instructions before the panel’s deliberations began, was somewhat problematic, Rowlands said.
Sentencing Wise on felonious assault, the specific third count in the indictment, “is somewhat unorthodox,” the judge said, “but it does fall squarely within the four corners of the law. That would be something that I would be prepared to do, literally, at a moment’s notice.”
Defense attorney Paul Adamson said he and Wise appreciated the prosecution’s offer, calling it a decision that was done “in good faith.”
As he did in closing arguments, Adamson told the court: “Sometimes we want justice. Sometimes we want mercy. Every now and then, justice and mercy can meet, and I still feel that this is one of those cases.”
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.