COLUMBUS, Ohio— The Ohio Parole Board on Friday rejected a request for mercy from a condemned inmate who argues he had such a bad childhood and is in such poor health that he should be spared from execution next month.
The board’s 11-1 decision came in the case of Alva Campbell, set to die by lethal injection on Nov. 15 for killing a teen during a 1997 carjacking. The slaying came five years after he was paroled on a different murder charge.
Republican Gov. John Kasich has the final say.
The board concluded that Campbell’s upbringing and childhood experiences “were certainly dysfunctional and no doubt traumatic” but must be weighed against the circumstances of his crime. The board also cited the fact that he had been responsible for two killings, among other offenses.
“Those murders and other crimes committed by Campbell over the course of many years reflect a disturbing propensity to engage in extreme and senseless violence, a propensity that never abated despite multiple incarcerations and attempts by the state to rehabilitate him,” the board said.
The board member who supported clemency concluded that Campbell’s “unstable, inhumane living conditions” as a child were made worse by his eventual removal from the home and that that was never fully considered by the courts.
Campbell was paroled in 1992 after serving 20 years for killing a man in a Cleveland bar. On April 2, 1997, Campbell was in a wheelchair feigning paralysis when he overpowered a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy on the way to a court hearing on several armed robbery charges, records show.
Campbell took the deputy’s gun, carjacked 18-year-old Charles Dials and drove around with him for several hours before shooting him twice in the head as Dials crouched in the footwell of his own truck, according to court records.
Campbell’s attorney, David Stebbins, said Friday that Campbell was regularly beaten, sexually abused and tortured as a child.
“We are disappointed that the majority of the Parole Board minimized the effect of this traumatic childhood as a source of his adult criminal behavior,” Stebbins said.
He also said that Campbell is terminally ill with a variety of chronic diseases. He is unable to walk, or breathe without assistance and is dependent on an external colostomy bag, Stebbins said.
“Executing Alva Campbell under these unique circumstances will result in an unseemly spectacle,” he said.
Stebbins says they are asking Kasich to grant clemency or, at the very least, to issue a reprieve.
Franklin County prosecutor Ron O’Brien opposes mercy and calls Campbell “the poster child for the death penalty.”
O’Brien said it was ironic Campbell was raising health concerns to avoid execution given that he faked paralysis to carry out his crime.
“As judgment day nears he again resorts to ill health as a reason to enable an escape from his capital sentence — and should not be permitted to do so,” O’Brien said in a filing with the parole board earlier this month.
O’Brien also dismissed Campbell’s claims about his upbringing.
“It is easy to blame deceased parents or a childhood for mistakes or even crimes — but not for two separate murders committed decades apart,” O’Brien said.
Other inmates across the country have cited ill health as a way to avoid execution. Some have been successful, including Vernon Madison, a 66-year-old Alabama inmate with stroke-induced dementia, who was spared because he didn’t understand his death sentence or remember the killing.
But many others have not had the same success, including double killer Richard Cooey, from Ohio, who was executed in 2008 despite arguing that his obesity would prevent humane lethal injection because viable veins in his arms were difficult to find.