Condemned Ohio inmate Billy Slagle wants death sentence tossed

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The evolving standards of the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office when it comes to capital punishment are reason enough to toss the death sentence of a condemned killer scheduled to die next week, attorneys for the man argued Wednesday.

Billy Slagle's death sentence should now be considered excessive because the county prosecutor says he wouldn't have sought that sentence if the crime were committed today, Slagle's attorneys said in a filing with the Ohio Supreme Court.

"The prosecutor's own policy for determining which offenders are the most morally culpable represents the best objective factor to determine which murders constitute the worst forms of murder in Cuyahoga County," according to the filing by federal public defenders Joe Wilhelm and Vicki Werneke.

Slagle has also made a last-minute request for a new trial and asked the Supreme Court to delay his Aug. 7 execution to allow him to make that argument.

In a rare move, prosecutor Tim McGinty asked the Ohio Parole Board to spare the 44-year-old Slagle, saying that jurors today, with the option of life without parole, would be unlikely to sentence Slagle to death.

Factors in an inmate's defense, the likelihood a jury would deliver a death sentence and whether that sentence could survive appeals are heavily considered under McGinty's new approach to potential capital punishment cases.

The Supreme Court has given McGinty until Friday to respond to both filings.

The board and Gov. John Kasich both rejected mercy for Slagle, sentenced to die for fatally stabling neighbor Mari Anne Pope in 1987 during a burglary while two young children were present.
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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus .

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