COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Parole Board on Tuesday rejected mercy for a condemned killer who shot two people, including a police officer.
The board ruled unanimously against recommending clemency for death row inmate Harry Mitts Jr., saying it wasn’t convinced he had taken full responsibility for the crime.
The board also rejected Mitts’ claim that the shooting of his first victim wasn’t racially motivated, noting that he used racial slurs before killing John Bryant, who was black.
“Given the multiple deaths, the racial animus underlying Bryant’s death, and the law enforcement victims Mitts targeted, Mitts’s case is clearly among the worst of the worst capital cases,” the board said.
Mitts, 61, is scheduled to die next month after being convicted of shooting the pair, including a Garfield Heights police sergeant, outside Cleveland in 1994.
He told the parole board in an interview earlier this month he’ll accept whatever decision it makes.
Much of Mitts’ parole board hearing last week focused on whether the killings were racially motivated.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty dismissed Mitts’ claims that he was not a racist.
“He is a racist cop killer who is deserving of his punishment,” McGinty said in a motion presented to the board asking it to deny clemency.
Mitts is remorseful and accepts responsibility for what he did, his attorney, Jeff Kelleher, told the board. He denied that Mitts was racist.
“Mr. Bryant died not because he was black,” Kelleher said Monday in an interview. “He died because he had the misfortune of meeting a man who became unhinged in the summer of ’94.”
Mitts was also convicted and sentenced to die for killing Sgt. Dennis Gliver, who was white.
Kelleher said he disagrees with the defense put on by Mitts’ original lawyer, who blamed Mitts’ drinking for the shootings.
“He acknowledges he was drinking and was intoxicated, but he knew what he was doing, and he acted intentionally, and that’s part of his full acceptance of responsibility,” Kelleher said.
The board wasn’t convinced by that argument, saying even though that tactic didn’t work at Mitts’ trial, it’s unclear what other strategy could have produced a different result.
The state’s supply of its execution drug, pentobarbital, expires at month’s end, and Mitts will be the last person put to death with that drug in Ohio if his execution is carried out.
The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has said it will likely announce its new execution method by Oct. 4.