Ed Meyer

The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously upheld Ashford Thompson’s aggravated murder conviction for the 2008 slaying of a Twinsburg police officer, but split 4-3 in deciding that the death penalty was appropriate.

Thompson’s death sentence, according to an entry filed with the high court’s 90-page decision, is scheduled to be carried out April 5, 2017.

Thompson, who turned 30 while on death row last month, shot Officer Joshua Miktarian four times in the head, at close range, after Thompson had been stopped for playing loud music in his car in the early hours of July 13, 2008.

In the high court’s close decision on the death sentence, Justice William M. O’Neill, who wrote one of the dissenting opinions, called the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting a “routine traffic stop gone tragically wrong.”

O’Neill said in his dissent that there were not sufficient aggravating factors to outweigh points of “significant weight” on Thompson’s behalf.

“The court’s conclusion that Thompson shot Miktarian to avoid being detected, apprehended, or punished,” O’Neill wrote, “is pure fiction.”

O’Neill used the trial testimony of Thompson’s girlfriend, Danielle Roberson, who was in his car and witnessed the shooting, to challenge the majority opinion that Thompson killed the officer to escape responsibility for his actions.

Roberson testified that Miktarian was aggressive toward Thompson, yelled at him from the beginning of their encounter, then “slapped a handcuff on him and threatened to ‘let [his] dog out on [Thompson’s] ass,’?”? only moments after Thompson got out of his car, O’Neill noted.

In his dissent, quoting a passage from Thompson’s unsworn testimony to the jury, he also noted that the defendant explained “all of this in his mitigation statement.”

The only reasonable explanation for what happened, O’Neill said, “is that Thompson was confused and frightened and mistakenly concluded that Officer Miktarian planned to attack him — either by releasing the police dog or by shooting him.”

O’Neill pointed to Thompson’s background — as a college graduate, licensed practical nurse with a steady job, church and community involvement and lack of any prior serious offense — as significant in outweighing the aggravating circumstances of his actions.

“This case is not in the same category as the premeditated, intentional taking of the life of another,” O’Neill concluded.

Justices Paul E. Pfeifer and Judith Ann Lanzinger concurred with the dissent against death. Pfeifer ended his brief remarks by saying: “I would sentence Thompson to life without parole.”

Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or emeyer@thebeaconjournal.com.