Columbus, Ohio - Ohio's prison parole board began hearing arguments Thursday for and against mercy for a man set to die in January for the 1993 rape and killing of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter.
Ronald Phillips is the first death row inmate scheduled for execution next year under a new process for putting condemned prisoners to death.
The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has said it plans to execute Phillips and two other inmates with a three-drug combination that's similar to a method it used several years ago.
Phillips' attorneys have asked the board in a written filing to spare Phillips, calling the case tragic but arguing that Phillips as an individual is not among the worst of the worst offenders.
“Evidence of Phillips's background, history, dysfunctional upbringing, and his reformed character demonstrate that he should not be executed for the murder of Sheila Marie Evans,” attorneys Tim Sweeney and Lisa Lagos wrote in a Nov. 25 filing.
Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh says Phillips refuses to accept responsibility and it's time for justice to be served.
She also calls Phillips' 2013 request for an execution delay to allow him to donate organs to family members “bogus.”
“Phillips has continually engaged in misdirection during his case besides his bogus request to donate his organs,” Walsh said in a Tuesday filing. “While he claims he takes responsibility for the despicable torture he inflicted on Sheila, he consistently blames others for his actions.”
In 2013, the parole board voted unanimously against clemency for Phillips, saying the killing was “among the worst of the worst.”
“Words cannot convey the barbarity of the crime. It is simply unconscionable,” the board said.
Board members also said they weren't convinced Phillips had fully accepted responsibility. They said he tried to shift blame onto the girl's mother and onto Phillips' father, for allegedly abusing Phillips as a child.
Phillips' execution was previously scheduled and delayed several times, including when Gov. John Kasich allowed time for a last-minute request by Phillips to donate organs. The request was ultimately denied. Phillips wanted to donate a kidney to his mother, who was on dialysis, and possibly his heart to his sister.
Ohio is returning to a form of execution it used from 1999 to late 2006, involving drugs that put inmates to sleep, paralyze them and stop their hearts.
The drugs are midazolam, rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride.
The prisons agency won't say where the drugs are from, citing a new state law that shields that information.