Juan Ignacio Blanco  


  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.









Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robberies
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: May 6/7, 1983
Date of arrest: November 10, 1983
Date of birth: August 21, 1952
Victims profile: Vinnie M. Prince, 74 (delicatessen owner) / Alexander Jones (security guard
Method of murder: Shooting (.38-caliber handgun)
Location: Cuyahoga County, Ohio, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Ohio on June 14, 2001
clemency report


On May 6, 1983 Jay Scott robbed the V & E Delicatessen on Cleveland's East Side. Scott and an accomplice entered the deli and placed an order for food from the eldery female owner, Vinnie M. Price.

After the owner had prepared their food she was shot in the chest from a distance of less than 12 inches.

Defendant claimed she was reaching for a gun. Two accomplices testified against Scott at trial.


Jay D. Scott, (August 21, 1952 - June 14, 2001), was executed by the U.S. state of Ohio for the 1983 murder of a delicatessen owner in Cleveland. He was the second man put to death by Ohio since it reinstated the death penalty in 1981.

On May 6, 1983, Vinnie M. Prince, owner and operator of the V & E Delicatessen in Cleveland, was shot and killed during an attempted armed robbery of her establishment. An autopsy later revealed that she died from a gunshot wound of the chest.

A nearby resident testified that while walking back to her home after shopping at a local market, she noticed a greenish-blue Cadillac without a rear license plate pull up across from her house. She observed two men inside the car; one behind the wheel and the other in the back seat. She later observed another man come over a nearby fence and dive through the open window of the Cadillac. The car then drove away.

Sometime after this incident, police received a telephone call from Ricky Tramble and a meeting between them was arranged. As a result, they began looking for the Cadillac used in the crime, and several suspects. Tramble testified at trial that he informed the detective that on the day Vinnie Prince was killed, he was with Edward O'Neal, Michael Streeter, Danny Jones and Jay D. Scott at O'Neal's girlfriend's.

Tramble stated that he had overheard Scott say, "Well, I did what I had to do. She shouldn't have made me move like that. Fuck it. It's over with." Scott professed to be "a stick-up man." Tramble related that O'Neal had informed him the next day of their involvement in the V & E Delicatessen incident, including the shooting of Prince.

Jones and O'Neal were arrested and gave statements to police that Scott shot Prince. On May 17, 1983, the grand jury charged Scott with aggravated murder with an aggravated robbery specification and a firearm specification and aggravated robbery. Also charged in the same indictments were co-defendants Danny Jones, Edward O'Neal and Michael Streeter.

On November 10, 1983, Scott was apprehended in Philadelphia. During the trip back to Cleveland, he inquired who was using his name in connection with a homicide and robbery. Up to this point, the arresting officers had informed Scott that he was wanted in connection with a homicide, but made no mention of the fact that he was also charged with aggravated robbery. Scott maintained that he had been in Reading, Pennsylvania when the incident occurred.

On November 23, 1983, Scott entered a plea of not guilty at his arraignment March 23, 1984, after a trial by jury, he was found guilty as to all counts and specifications. On March 28, 1984, the jury recommended the sentence of death. On April 4, 1984, Judge Joseph McManamon accepted the jury's recommendation and ordered that Scott be put to death. His co-conspirators in the robbery and killing all received life prison terms.

Scott's attorneys took his case through the appellate system four times, going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, unsuccessfully arguing that Scott should not be executed because he suffered from chronic schizophrenia. They said the execution would violate the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Scott twice came within moments of being executed before he was finally put to death on June 14, 2001. On April 17, 2001 Scott's execution was stopped 65 minutes before it was to happen. On May 15, 2001, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stepped in and the execution was halted at 8:57 p.m. Scott already had the injection shunts in his arms.

On 5/6/83, Jay Scott participated in an attempted armed robbery of the V & E Delicatessen on Cleveland's East Side. Scott and an accomplice entered the delicatessen and placed an order for food from the eldery female owner, Vinnie M. Price.

After the owner had prepared their food she was shot in the chest from a distance of less than 12 inches.

Scott was also sentenced to death for the murder of security guard Alexander Jones the day after Vinnie's murder. Alexander was a security guard at another restaurant that Scott was robbing, The Shrimp Boat.

That sentence was reversed and later reduced to life when the 8th District Ohio Court of Appeals ruled that the jurors' decision may have been tainted because some of them learned of Scott's other death sentence when they saw a newspaper headline.

Jay D. Scott had bragged he was the "baddest man in town," according to Cleveland homicide detectives who arrested him in Philadelphia after he fled.

Vinnie had worked at the V&E Confectionery for 30 years and she became co-owner in 1963. Two co-defendants identified Scott as the triggerman.

A Cleveland jury convicted Scott after deliberating 20 minutes, and he was sent to death row in April 1984. Since then, the case has been tied up in appeals. Scott has racked up over 40 major conduct infractions in prison, including stabbing another inmate, abducting a death row guard and setting fire to his cell.

UPDATE: 5/12/01

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Scott is competent to be executed for the 1983 murder of a Cleveland delicatessen owner. Scott's attorneys say he is incompetent to be executed because he suffers from schizophrenia, and that putting him to death would be cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. Constitution.

The state argued that no court has ruled that executing an inmate with Scott's condition violates the law and that two lower courts found no reason to spare Scott's life.

The 6-1 court ruling, with Justice Paul Pfeifer dissenting, upheld a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge's decision that Scott is competent to face execution. The majority acknowledged that schizophrenia is a mental illness but said the lower court correctly ruled that the illness did not prevent Scott from understanding the proceedings against him.

The trial court fully considered defense medical testimony of Scott's illness, the majority said in an unsigned opinion. Ohio law says an inmate is competent to be executed if he knows of the proceedings against him, why he is being executed and that he will die as a result of the sentence.

A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge ruled April 16 that Scott is competent to face execution. The next day, the Ohio Supreme Court postponed his execution -- 65 minutes before it was to take place -- so the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals could have time to consider the case.

The appeals court on April 20 upheld the lower court, and the Supreme Court set the new execution date on April 25. The only prisoner put to death in Ohio since 1963 was Wilford Berry, who was executed in 1999 after he gave up his appeals.


Ohio Executes Schizophrenic Death Row Inmate

By Kate Randall - World Socialist Web Site

June 16, 2001

Despite widespread protests both internationally and in the US, the state of Ohio executed 48-year-old Jay D. Scott on Thursday, June 14.

Scott was a diagnosed schizophrenic with a low IQ who suffered an abusive childhood and spent all but 28 months in prison since the age of 13. He was only the second inmate put to death in Ohio since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1981.

Scott's lethal injection, which came only three days after the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, took place as George W. Bush was making his first visit to Europe.

Bush has faced widespread public protests during his trip over the US practice of capital punishment. A staunch supporter of the death penalty, Bush presided over 152 executions during his six years as governor of Texas.

As Bush arrived in Spain on Tuesday, the first stop on his tour, he was greeted by about 4,000 demonstrators protesting his stand on missile defense, the environment and the death penalty. Only the week before, Joaquin Jose Martinez, a Spanish national who had spent three years on death row in Florida for a double-murder, had been released after new evidence cleared him of the crime.

In Sweden on Thursday, demonstrators carried out mock executions in a homemade electric chair, dumping the “dead” bodies into a funeral van. Sweden signed a letter on behalf of the European Union calling on Ohio Governor Bob Taft to halt the execution, saying the EU “opposes the death penalty in all cases and promotes universal abolition.”

The human rights group Amnesty International appealed to Ohio authorities to spare Jay Scott's life. A coalition of ministers, mental health advocates and other death penalty opponents in Ohio called on Governor Taft to grant him clemency. The Ohio chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill also condemned his execution.

This was the third time in less than two months that Scott had faced death. On both April 17 and May 15 court orders halted his execution just minutes before it was scheduled.

In the latter instance, the tubes to be used for his lethal injection had already been inserted in his arms when the execution was called off at the last minute. On Wednesday, June 13 the US Supreme Court refused his appeal and Governor Taft denied him clemency.

Scott was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1983 murders of Vinney Prince, 75, and Ralph Alexander Jones, 66, during a 13-hour rampage in Cleveland. His lawyers argued that his original defense provided inadequate counsel by failing to raise the issue of his mental competency during the sentencing phase of his trial, and that he might have been spared the death penalty.

Jay Scott's execution on Thursday was the tragic end to a life dominated by poverty and abuse—compounded by mental illness. His story mirrors that of a significant portion of the more than 3,700 condemned inmates on death rows across the US. Scott's attorneys wrote in their clemency request to Governor Taft that “From the day he was born, Jay D. lived in a world of extreme deprivation, poverty and violence.”

They argued that he should not be viewed as “a coldblooded, clearheaded and callous killer” but as a “young man who had so many things working against him from the beginning of his life, and who never really had a fair chance.”

Scott grew up in an impoverished neighborhood on Cleveland's east side, the sixth of eleven children of Willie and Sadie Scott. Both parents were alcoholics who reportedly beat and abused their children.

Scott's father spent most of the family's money on alcohol and gambling, forcing his wife and children to borrow and steal to make ends meet. The children slept as many as five to a bed and often had no heat in the cold winter months because utility bills went unpaid.

As a child, Scott battled learning disabilities and stuttered. Mental experts for his defense speculate that his mental illness may have started in childhood, although it went undiagnosed until he was an adult.

He spent much of his time on the streets, and by the age of nine he had been arrested on charges of truancy, theft, and breaking and entering. At age 13 he was placed in the Cleveland Boys School for troubled youth.

Among Scott's siblings, a brother and sister were shot to death and another brother was paralyzed in a shooting. His older brother Willie spent most of his life in psychiatric hospitals. Two brothers and one half-brother witnessed his execution on Thursday. Scott's final words to his relatives were, “Don't worry. Tell them I'm alright.”

In prison in the early 1990s, Scott learned that he suffered from chronic schizophrenia, a biological brain disorder. He exhibited strange behavior in prison, banging his head against the wall and running around his cell chanting. He explained these actions as an effort to protect his family from evil.

He was given psychotropic drugs that helped to stabilize him, but had stopped taking them as his execution approached. Due to his mental impairment and low IQ his attorneys argued that he wasn't capable of fully comprehending his approaching execution.

Fifteen US states and the federal government now ban the execution of the mentally retarded. On June 5, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to overturn the death sentence of Texas prisoner John Paul Penry, a retarded man with the mental capacity of a six-year-old. Although the justices ruled that Penry's mental deficiency should have been presented to jurors as a mitigating factor in his sentencing, they stopped short of banning the execution of the mentally retarded as unconstitutional.

The Death Penalty Information Center estimates that 35 mentally retarded individuals have been executed since the US Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment. In 1989 the American Bar Association adopted a policy opposing the execution of the mentally retarded, irrespective of their guilt or innocence.

Jay Scott was the 36th person executed this year, and the 719th since executions were resumed in 1977.


Last Words Back in Ohio's Execution Ritual

By Alan Johnson - Columbus Dispatch

Tuesday, April 10, 2001

If Jay D. Scott is executed a week from today, he will be allowed to speak -- rather than write -- his last words.

Ohio prison officials quietly have reversed a 1997 policy prohibiting condemned prisoners from speaking their last words. The change might be linked in part to a pending lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Final words could be spoken in Ohio sooner than expected as last- ditch appeals are set in motion to try to stop the state's second execution in 38 years.

Scott, 48, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 9 p.m. next Tuesday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.

Scott's attorneys are expected to file an appeal -- probably today in Cleveland -- citing his history of mental problems and arguing that he is incompetent to be executed. That will be followed by a request to the Ohio Supreme Court to stop the execution.

In the meantime, Gov. Bob Taft is expected to announce his decision on clemency in Scott's case within a few days. He received the Ohio Parole Board's 10-1 recommendation against clemency on Friday.

Scott was sentenced to die for the May 6, 1983, slaying of Vinnie Prince, a Cleveland delicatessen owner. Scott shot Prince with a .38-caliber handgun after the 74-year-old woman filled his order for bologna and crackers.

Scott has exhausted his state and federal appeals. His last hopes appear to rest with Taft, who has unlimited authority under Ohio law to grant clemency, and the competency appeal.

Taft spokesman Kevin Kellems said the governor will make a decision "when he's completed a thorough review of the case. The timeline is driven by the merits of the case.'' Joe Andrews, spokesman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said the execution team is practicing at the Lucasville prison. The last-words policy was changed, Andrews said, at the direction of prisons chief Reginald A. Wilkinson.

The policy was instituted because prison officials were concerned that a condemned killer would use his last words to make painful statements about the victim or victim's family.

That happened in California in the case of Polly Klaas, a 12-year-old California girl who was abducted and slain. Her killer, Richard Allen Davis, made inflammatory remarks at his sentencing in 1996, claiming the girl's father molested her.

Andrews said Ohio officials wanted to protect victims from that kind of situation at an execution. However, after talking to representatives in other states and reviewing Ohio's history of executions, state officials found "nothing to indicate that it was prevalent for inmates to say disparaging things about the victims or their families.''

Andrews said state and ACLU attorneys are discussing the policy change. The ACLU went to federal court in July 1999 to defend inmates' rights to say last words, an Anglo-American tradition dating back 500 years. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Death Row inmates -- Fred Treesh of Lake County and Melvin Bonnell of Cuyahoga County.

Wilford Berry, the Cleveland killer known as the "the Volunteer,'' was given the opportunity to write his last words before his execution Feb. 19, 1999. He declined, and went to his death silently.

Not everyone thinks the revised policy is a good idea. Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker, who spends much of his time trying to prevent inmates from being executed, said yesterday that it doesn't matter how the final words are communicated. "It really serves no purpose to anyone,'' Bodiker said.

State Treasurer Joseph T. Deters, former Hamilton County prosecutor and a zealous death-penalty advocate, called the last-words policy "state-sponsored victim harassment.'' "I think it's a mistake,'' Deters said. "They ought to revisit it. The victims shouldn't have to suffer any more.''


Amnesty International Condemns Denial of Clemency for Jay Scott, Cites International Law and Recent Statements of Five Jurors

Amnesty International

April 11, 2001

Today, Amnesty International (AI) condemns Ohio Governor Bob Taft's denial of clemency yesterday for Jay D. Scott, who faces execution this Tuesday. The international organization states that Scott's case is a particularly egregious violation of numerous international human rights standards.

In a compelling development, five jurors from the trial have signed declarations under oath that they might have voted differently if mitigating evidence of mental disorders and an extremely abusive childhood had been presented by Scott's attorneys. Two of these jurors wrote that they definitely would have voted differently.

"The Governor says he read the juror's declarations, but he did not respond to the fact that nearly half the jurors say they may have voted differently," said Michael Manley, AI's Ohio death penalty coordinator. "If this goes forward, these people will have to live their lives knowing they could have prevented this execution."

Juror John J. Patten, states in his declaration "had I known about Mr. Scott's past, especially about his history of mental illness dating back prior to the time of his commission of the crime, it would have made a difference to me - that is, I would have voted for a life sentence." Another juror, Verlene Estremera, made a similar statement.

AI also says that the execution would violate international human rights standards. A UN Commission on Human Rights resolution urges countries not to use the death penalty "on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder or to execute any such person."

Similarly, the United States Supreme Court is presently examining the constitutionality of executing the mentally retarded, and has recently issued stays of execution in three such cases while it deliberates.

Mr. Scott's attorneys now are asking the courts to stay his execution on the grounds it would be unconstitutional. Scott has been diagnosed as schizophrenic and "delusional," suffering from major depressive disorder with "psychotic features." His behavior has included banging his head against the wall and defecating in his food and eating it. AI urges Governor Taft to rescind his decision without delay.


Scott is Unable to Escape Third Date With Death; Killer Doesn't Offer Apology as State Carries Out Execution

By Jim Provance - Blade Columbus Bureau

J. D. Scott Webpage

LUCASVILLE - With words of comfort for his family but no apology, convicted murderer Jay D. Scott succumbed last night to a lethal chemical cocktail, becoming just the second man executed by the state of Ohio in 38 years.

The bearded, graying, 48-year-old black man was pronounced dead at 9:08 p.m., paying the ultimate price for the robbery slaying of Vinnie Prince, the elderly owner of a Cleveland delicatessen, on May 6, 1983.

Addressing three members of his family witnessing his execution, Scott said: "Spook, George, Randy. I love you all. Tell my family and friends I send my love. Don't worry. Tell them I'm all right."

Afterward, an unidentified member of Scott's family remarked to media witnesses, "I really think the Lakers are going to win tomorrow." It was an apparent reference to Scott being upset earlier in the day over missing the National Basketball Association playoffs.

A diagnosed schizophrenic, Scott spent the final day and a half of his life at the Death House at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, meeting with family, an Islamic spiritual adviser, and his lawyers, and eating a last meal of fish, hot sauce, and Pepsi.

He spent much of his time in a cramped cell with a cot, a television, and a tiny window through which visitors could make contact with him. It was a routine he had followed twice before on April 17 and May 15, when his execution was delayed just before it was to take place.

Joe Andrews, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, said a psychologist and psychiatrist met with Scott about 5 p.m., disputing a suggestion from family members that Scott had suffered a "mental episode." "They both observed that he was oriented, knew what was going on, was aware of what happening, was resigned to that, and had made his peace with God," Mr. Andrews said.

One of Scott's lawyers, Tim Sweeney, met with him for about 15 minutes, looking for signs that the episode would be enough to trigger a last-minute stay based on the argument that Scott no longer understood what was happening to him and why. "In our judgment, it wasn't," he said. He described Scott as "kind of scared. He's still hoping this won't happen." Scott had not been taking the anti-psychotic drugs that could control the manifestations of schizophrenia, which can include hallucinations.

Eighteen years ago, Mrs. Prince had just served Scott bologna and crackers when he fatally shot her in the chest with a 38-caliber gun and robbed the deli as his accomplices waited outside. A short time later, he shot Alexander "Ralph" Jones, a security guard at a Cleveland restaurant.

Although he was convicted and sentenced to death for both murders, the sentence in the Jones case was later overturned. "Vinnie Price and Alexander Jones have now received some measure of justice," said Attorney General Betty Montgomery in a written statement.

Scott was led into the death chamber at 9 p.m. and strapped to a gurney before witnesses. Shortly after, an unidentified team began the flow of three chemicals that first sedated him, paralyzed his lungs, and then stopped his heart. It was over in eight minutes. Although he was the second Ohioan executed since 1963, he was the first who did not go willingly. On Feb. 19, 1999, Wilford Berry was dubbed "The Volunteer" after he gave up his appeals to hasten his execution.

Outside the walls and barbed wire, a small group of protesters kept vigil. "Killing people is wrong, whether the state does it or an individual does it," said Dori Moore of Wheelersburg. "I'm afraid this makes it easier for them to do the next one."

The number was a far cry from last month, when Scott came within minutes of being put to death. About three times as many people then were gathered in the parking lot, most opposed to Scott's execution. Neil Kookoothe, a Roman Catholic priest with the Cleveland Diocese, said he was disappointed in the low turnout but is not ready to give up. "I'll stop anything [I'm doing] to do this," Father Kookoothe said. Father Kookoothe visits death row inmates at Mansfield and is a licensed attorney who has been involved in death penalty cases. There are 201 people on Ohio's death row, all of them men.

Scott's attorneys surrendered the legal fight Wednesday after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his latest appeals. They had argued that taking Scott twice to the brink of execution and then pulling him back from the precipice was in itself unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

Mr. Sweeney's last hope was that Governor Taft would change his mind at the last minute and halt the execution. The governor monitored the situation in his office at the Vern Riffe Center in Columbus, along with his chief counsel, William Klatt, and chief-of-staff, Brian Hicks. He stayed in contact with the prison and Ms. Montgomery, but the call Mr. Sweeney and Scott hoped for never was made.

According to court records, Scott was born into a large, violent family in Cleveland. Eventually the children in the family would number 11, many of them meeting violent fates of their own. Scott was arrested for the first time at 9, the beginning of a criminal career that would lead him in and out of juvenile detention facilities and adult prisons.

While in prison on the murder charge in 1985, he and other death-row inmates at Lucasville took two guards hostage during a riot, a key factor in Mr. Taft's decisions not to grant Scott's pleas for clemency.


Convicted Killer Executed in Ohio

By John McCarthy

Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A convicted killer whose life was twice spared by a court just minutes before he was to be put to death was executed Thursday for the 1993 murder of a delicatessen owner.

Jay D. Scott, 48, died by lethal injection just after 9 p.m. at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville. It was his third execution date in two months. Courts ordered delays on April 17 and May 15 over questions about his competence.

By the time the scheduled May 15 execution was delayed, the execution team had already placed into Scott's arms the shunts that would carry the drugs to kill him.

Scott's lawyers had pleaded with the courts to spare his life a third time because he is schizophrenic, arguing that killing a mentally ill person is cruel and unusual. The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday refused Scott's appeals. His lawyers had also argued that the two canceled executions were cruel and unusual.

Only Gov. Bob Taft could have stopped Scott's execution Thursday. Scott's lawyer had pleaded with the governor for clemency, but Taft had said Wednesday he would not grant it because Scott's lawyers had presented no new evidence since he rejected similar requests in April and May.

Scott was convicted of killing Cleveland delicatessen owner Vinney Prince, 70, who was shot in the chest after she prepared food for Scott and an accomplice. Scott killed a security guard the next day at a Cleveland restaurant and was sentenced to death a second time, but that sentence was overturned because it was found that a juror knew of his first sentence.

Scott was the first Ohio inmate to be executed since 1999.


480 U.S. 923


No. 86-5953

Supreme Court of the United States

March 9, 1987

Rehearing Denied April 27, 1987.

On petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Ohio.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice MARSHALL, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting from denial of certiorari.

Petitioner was convicted and sentenced to death by a jury that heard the trial judge indicate that, on the basis of newspaper accounts he had read, he believed petitioner was involved in the crime. Because the judge's statement deprived petitioner of a fair trial, I would grant certiorari in this case.

During voir dire, the trial judge stated to the jury:

    "Not only was Mr. Scott-at least from the newspaper reports that I think that I had read-was involved in this, there were three other . . . individuals who . . ." 26 Ohio St.3d 92, 95, 497 N.E.2d 55 ( 1986).

Defense counsel interrupted to object to this comment on petitioner's involvement in the crime. He subsequently made a motion for a mistrial, in which the prosecutor joined. The trial court denied the motion, but delivered a cautionary instruction admonishing the jury to base its verdict only on the evidence introduced at trial. The judge also told the jury, "[Y]ou must not take any impression from anything I have done or said as to what your decision should be." App. to Pet. for Cert. 33-34.

The Ohio Supreme Court attempted to excuse the remark. The court insisted that "[t]he judge's comment did not concern [petitioner's] guilt or innocence, but, rather, noted the fact that the news media had reported [ petitioner's] involvement with the crime." 26 Ohio St.3d, at 96, 497 N.E. 2d 55. This is a ludicrous reading of the statement. How the jury could reasonably have interpreted and applied the comment determines whether it should be considered prejudicial. See, e.g., Sandstrom v. Montana, 442 U.S. 510, 516 -519, 2455-2456 (1978).

In this case, the jury could reasonably take the comment at face value, namely, as a statement that, based on what he had read in the newspapers, the judge believed petitioner was a participant in the crime. Before the jury had even heard any the evidence, the judge had effectively become a witness against petitioner. See United States v. Murdock, 290 U.S. 389, 393 , 54 S. Ct. 223, 224 (1933).

Moreover, even under the Ohio Supreme Court's dubious interpretation, the judge's comment deprived petitioner of a fair trial. The only legitimate judicial references to pretrial publicity would have been inquiries about exposure to pretrial publicity or warnings against it. Instead, the judge actually reported to the jurors the media's conclusion that petitioner was guilty. That the source of this prejudicial publicity was the trial judge magnifies, rather than eliminates, the problem. The jury could reasonably assume that, since the judge had read about the crime, it was acceptable for them to do so as well.

The Ohio Supreme Court relied on the cautionary instruction given to the prospective jurors, maintaining that it "minimize[d] any prejudicial effect this comment may have had. . . ." Id., 26 Ohio St.3d at 96, 497 N. E.2d 55. This reliance is misplaced. Because "the influence of the trial judge on the jury is necessarily and properly of great weight, and . . . his lightest word or intimation is received with deference, and may prove controlling," Starr v. United States, 153 U.S. 614, 626 , 923 (1894), some errors are so fundamental that no instruction can undo the damage they cause. See Quercia v. United States, 289 U.S. 466, 472 , 700 (1933).

A comment on petitioner's guilt is certainly such a fundamental error; it is "most likely to remain firmly lodged in the memory of the jury and to excite the prejudice which would preclude a fair and dispassionate consideration of the evidence." Ibid. Moreover, any reference to extrajudicial evidence by the trial judge destroys the fundamental premise of any trial-that the ultimate decision rests solely upon evidence presented by the parties within the confines of the rules of evidence.

The remedy for this extraordinary error was close at hand. No witness had yet been sworn. The panel of prospective jurors might have been discharged and a new venire called without difficulty. Nonetheless, the trial judge plunged ahead and petitioner was tried by a jury exposed to comments that overwhelmed the presumption of innocence. Because we cannot tolerate such interference with petitioner's right to a fair trial in a capital case, I would grant the petition for certiorari.

In addition, petitioner's death sentence was founded on a statutory aggravating circumstance that repeats an element of the underlying capital offense. As in No. 86-5307, Williams v. Ohio, and No. 86-6015, Bradley v. Alabama, ___ U.S. ___, 107 S.Ct. ___, 93 L.Ed.2d ___, I would grant review for reasons stated in my dissent from denial of certiorari in Wiley v. Mississippi, ___ U.S. ___ (1986).



No. 01-3511

Jay D. Scott, Petitioner-Appellant,
Betty Mitchell, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland.

No. 95-02037--Kathleen McDonald O'Malley, District Judge.

Submitted: May 15, 2001
Decided and Filed: May 15, 2001

Before: BOGGS, SILER, and BATCHELDER, Circuit Judges.


ALICE M. BATCHELDER, Circuit Judge. This matter is before us on petitioner Jay D. Scott's motion for a stay of his execution, scheduled for 9:00 p.m. on this date, and on Scott's appeal from the district court's denial of his supplemental petition for habeas corpus. The district court denied Scott's supplemental petition because it concluded that although the claims raised therein were not procedurally barred under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. � 2244, those claims were without merit.

We conclude that Scott's third claim--that execution of the severely mentally ill is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment--is procedurally barred. We further conclude that his first and second claims--that Ohio's procedures for determining whether he is competent to be executed and the Ohio courts' application of those procedures to him violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment and denied him due process, and that the Ford v. Wainwright test for determining competency to be executed is inadequate in light of contemporary standards of decency--may be considered on their merits because they were not ripe at the time Scott filed his initial habeas petition.

For the reasons that follow, we conclude that neither of those claims is meritorious, and we will therefore AFFIRM the judgment of the district court denying the writ. Finally, we DENY the motion for stay of Scott's execution.

I. Procedural Background

Jay Scott was convicted by an Ohio jury of aggravated robbery and aggravated murder on March 21, 1984, and sentenced to death. He pursued all of his state court avenues of direct appeal and collateral review without success, and the Ohio Supreme Court scheduled his execution for October 25, 1995.

Scott immediately filed in federal district court a notice of his intent to file a petition for habeas corpus. The petition, filed on February 2, 1996, was ultimately denied; the Supreme Court denied Scott's petition for certiorari; and the Ohio Supreme Court set Scott's execution date for April 17, 2001.

Scott then sought an evidentiary hearing in the state court pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code Ann. � 2949.28, claiming that he has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, and that the mental disease has progressed to the point that he is not competent to be executed. The state trial court held a hearing, at which Scott was permitted to present the live testimony of his psychiatrist, but concluded that there was no probable cause to believe that Scott meets the Ohio statute's definition of insanity for purposes of competence to be put to death. The trial court therefore denied Scott's request for a full evidentiary hearing.

The Ohio Supreme Court postponed Scott's execution date in order to permit the state court of appeals to consider his appeal of the trial court's judgment; that judgment ultimately was affirmed by the state appellate court, and the Ohio Supreme Court denied Scott's request for a further stay of his execution.

The United States Supreme Court declined to hear Scott's challenge to the constitutionality of the Ohio Supreme Court's decision denying a further stay of execution. Scott then filed a "Supplemental Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus" seeking to assert his claims that he is not competent to be executed, that the Ohio procedures for determining his competence to be executed are unconstitutional, and that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of one who is severely mentally ill. The district court denied the petition and Scott is now before this court, seeking a stay of his scheduled execution and a reversal of the district court's denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

II. Analysis

Scott's petition before the district court claims first that Ohio's statutory procedures for determining his competence to be executed are unconstitutional, and that the Ohio courts' applications of those procedures to him violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment and denied him due process. His petition next claims that Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986), is obsolete.

Finally, his petition asserts that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of one who is severely mentally ill. The State argues that this petition is not a supplemental petition and that under the AEDPA it is barred in its entirety unless Scott obtains permission from this court to file a second and successive petition. Scott maintains that none of these claims was ripe when he filed his initial petition for habeas relief in 1996, and therefore the AEDPA bar is not applicable.

We agree with the State that Scott's claim that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of one who is severely mentally ill is barred. Although Scott was not specifically diagnosed as being schizophrenic until well after he filed his initial petition in 1996, his own pleadings make it clear that he had suffered from severe mental illness for years before that petition was filed.

Any claim that his execution was prohibited by the Eighth Amendment because he was severely mentally ill was therefore ripe at the time that he filed that petition, but the petition makes no mention of such a claim. Accordingly, we conclude that the district court erred in considering this claim on the merits.

We do not agree with the State, however, that Scott's claim that he was denied his Eighth Amendment and due process rights because Ohio's procedures for determining competence for purposes of execution are unconstitutional is similarly barred. Scott's first execution date preceded his filing of his initial federal habeas petition, and he certainly could have raised his Ford claim in that petition.

However, the State does not dispute Scott's claim that he is schizophrenic; neither does it dispute his claim that this mental disease is progressive and that its victims do not improve but only get worse. Accordingly, Scott's imminent execution and his claim to a declining mental state lead us to conclude, consistent with our opinion in Coe v. Bell, 209 F.3d 815, 824-25 (6th Cir. 2000), that while this claim might not have been ripe six years ago, it is certainly ripe now.

We therefore conclude that we will address on its merits Scott's challenge to the adequacy of the Ford standard. Under the particular facts of this case, Scott had no reason to challenge the adequacy of that standard until he raised his claim that he is not competent to be executed.

We find, however, no error in Judge O'Malley's conclusion that we are bound by Ford because "neither the Supreme Court nor the Court of Appeals in this Circuit has ever issued an opinion questioning its vitality." Judge O'Malley is entirely correct, and she is further correct that the Supreme Court's grant of certiorari in McCarver v. North Carolina, 121 S. Ct. 1401 (2001), does not affect this result.

We therefore conclude that the definition of insanity set out in Ohio's Ford statute, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. � 2948.28(A), provides the appropriate standard for determining whether Scott is competent to be executed. That definition is: "that the convict in question does not have the mental capacity to understand the nature of the death penalty and why it was imposed upon the convict." Id.

We are left with Scott's claim that Ohio's courts denied him due process by burdening him with proving his competency under Ford and by denying him an opportunity for an evidentiary hearing on that question. We find no merit to this claim.

Ford provides that "an insane defendant's Eighth Amendment interest in forestalling his execution unless or until he recovers his sanity cannot be deprived without a 'fair hearing.' Indeed, fundamental fairness is the hallmark of the protections afforded by the Due Process Clause." 477 U.S. at 424 (Powell, J., concurring).

Applying this principle, we have recognized that "the state is entitled to exercise discretion in creating its own procedures as long as basic fairness is observed." Coe v. Bell, 209 F.3d 815, 824-25 (6th Cir. 2000) (internal alterations and citation omitted) (concluding that the procedures followed by the Tennessee courts satisfied the requirements of due process and did not constitute an unreasonable application of Ford).

Ohio's Ford statute provides:

(1) If a convict sentenced to death appears to be insane, the warden or the sheriff having custody of the convict, the convict's counsel, or a psychiatrist or psychologist who has examined the convict shall give notice of the apparent insanity to . . .the judge who imposed the sentence upon the convict . . . .

(2) Upon receiving a notice pursuant to division (B)(1) of this section, a judge shall determine, based on the notice and any supporting information, any information submitted by the prosecuting attorney, and the record in the case, including previous hearings and orders, whether probable cause exists to believe that the convict is insane. If the judge finds that probable cause exists to believe that the convict is insane, the judge shall hold a hearing to determine whether the convict is insane. If the judge does not find that probable cause of that nature exists, the judge may dismiss the matter without a hearing.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. � 2949.28(B). This statute afforded Scott the basic fairness that Ford requires; namely, the opportunity to be heard. Scott availed himself of that opportunity when, for example, he presented live testimony from Dr. Douglas Mossman. We have acknowledged that Ford allows states "substantial leeway to determine what process best balances the various interests at stake." Coe, 209 F.3d at 828 (quotation omitted).

A state process under Ford may even incorporate "some high threshold showing on behalf of the prisoner . . . to control the number of nonmeritorious or repetitive claims of insanity." 477 U.S. at 417 (plurality opinion). Accordingly, that Ohio denied Scott an evidentiary hearing does not violate due process as enunciated in Ford.

Concerning Scott's argument that the Ohio statute impermissibly placed upon him the burden of proving his competency, we do not read Ford and Coe--the governing cases here--to say that procedural due process requires Ohio's Ford statute to set up a burden-shifting paradigm or to assign the initial burden of establishing probable cause to the state.

Ohio's statute does not contemplate burden shifting to establish probable cause. Rather, the statute directs the court to examine the evidence and to make a finding regarding whether there is probable cause to believe that a convict meets the Ford standard.

Here, Dr. Mossman testified that Scott suffers from schizophrenia, but he did not state that Scott is unable to "understand the nature of the death penalty and why it was imposed upon" him. The trial court was therefore justified in finding that Scott had presented no evidence of probable cause sufficient to warrant holding a full evidentiary hearing. For this reason, we agree with the district court that "[w]hatever the merits of Scott's Due Process contentions, in the abstract, the Court fails to see how they are meaningful in this case." Scott v. Mitchell, No. 95CV2037, Order at 6 (N.D. Ohio May 14, 2001).

III. Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the judgment of the district court denying the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and we deny petitioner's motion for a stay of his execution.


Jay D. Scott



home last updates contact