Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Brett Hartman Gets Stay of Execution

From a joint statement by Attorney General Cordray and Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh:

    We are in the process of reviewing the decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. A stay has been temporarily granted by the Sixth Circuit and will remain in effect until the U.S. Supreme Court issues its opinion in District Attorney's Office for the Third Judicial District v. Osborne. Based upon today's order, the execution of Brett Hartman will not go forward on Tuesday, April 7.
The SCOTUSWiki page for the Osborne case is here. The issue is whether a defendant has a due process right to examine the state's evidence using updated technology post-conviction. There's a secondary issue the Court may reach which is -- sit down for this -- whether a person has a due process right to have a conviction overturned based on being actually innocent without any allegation of trial error. I'll try to come back to that one in a later post, but yes it is as jacked up as it sounds.

Hartman has been arguing for the right to retest evidence from the scene. On appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court he argued for limited testing basically to rule out an inconsistency between his story and the physical evidence. The claimed right to retest as described by the paper is more extensive -- basically retesting everything even though he pretty much admitted that he was in the victim's apartment so that physical evidence putting him there isn't a big surprise. The Supreme Court opinion, by the way, is available on this Brett Hartman Is Innocent site. As the opinion demonstrates, the evidence against him is actually quite overwhelming.

I don't know where the Supreme Court will come out on Osborne, so it's dicey to say when Hartman's planned execution will get back on track. By coincidence, this makes two consecutive Summit County defendants who got a stay pending a Supreme Court decision. The first, Richard Wade Cooey, has subsequently been put to death.