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Awkal Competency ruling

Awkal Competency ruling

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Published by: jmgamso on Jun 19, 2012
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: coaoouo
CASE NO. CR-276501
;?(¶1) The Court has before it the defendant's renewed Postcon. "victioit Petition Under
Ohio R. C. §2953.21, et seq., etc., filed May30, 2012, and the state's brief in opposition.
Mindful of the fact tha.t the defendant is scheduled to be executed on W'ednesday, June
20, 2012, the Couzt will be succinct in its consideration of the issues raised.
(12) There is no need at tlzis junctuxe to recite the procedural histor^ of the case in any
= detail. The Court waJJ" me.rely note that the defen.d,a.nt was charged,
int& a.iia,
with two
9 counts of aggravated murder with "mass murder" specifications, stereim.i.ng.from the
shooting death of his estranged wife and broth,er-in-lati* outside a heating room in, theCuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court.
{13} The defendant initially was found to be not competent to stand: trial and referred
to the Dayton Forensic Center for restoration to competency. He subsequently wasfound competent and was tried to a jury. The jusy found him guilty of the underlying
charges and o:f the specafications; that same jury later recomm"ended i.tnposition of thedeath penalty. On December 14,1992, the Cenzrt issued an opiruon accppt"°tng the jury's
recommendation and imposing the d.eath penalty.
{{¶4) Subsequent to that date there have been numerous appeals and other proceed-
ings challenging the verdict and sentence, both in. Ohio state courts and in the federal
judicial syste.tr+.
In all cases
both the verdict and the sentence have becln. a,ffi.r",med..
i1{¶5} On Apri19, 2012, counsel for the defendant filed a petition for post-conviction re-lief, seeking to vacate the death penalty on the basis that the defendant is not competent
to be executed. , and citing
Ford v. Wafn¢vright,
477 U.S. 399 (7.986) and its progen.y-inparticular Panetti a. Quartenn.arr, 551 U.S. 9.0 (2007). In response to that petition, tlie
Court appointed the expert requested by counsel, Dr. Phillip Resnick (Director of the
i^ Court's Psychiatric Clin.ic) to examine the defendant. Collaborating witb. Dr. Resnick in
the evaluation was his assoctate, Dr. Jennifer Piel. The prosecuting attorney retained Dr.Stephen Noffsinger, also of the Court Psychiatric Clinic to perform a second evaluation.
At the date set for the hearing, the Court was advised that Drs. Resnick and Piel and D.r..
Noffsinger all had concl.u.d.ed that-despite his documented history of sever.e and
longstanding mental health issu.es- the defendant was indeed competent under the
standard, in that he understood that his impending execa:ti.on was to take place as
punisbxnent for his murder of h.t,s wife and brother-in-law; accordingly, the Court de
riied the petition.{¶6) Counsel. for defendant filed a renewed petition for past-convi,ction relief on May
1 30,2012, this time supported by the reporl• of an evaluation performed upon. the de-fendant by Dr. Pablo Stewart, who concluded, on the basis of, his review of the history
i of the case and his examination of the defendant, that W. Awkal is not competent ta beexecuted. The state responded the next day, alleging that the def.endant was not entitled
to a, hearing, that he had failed to .make a sufficient showing of his mental state to justify
hearing; the state further asserted that this Court laclcs the authority to order a
stay of execution.
i:{17) On)une 4, 2012-two days before the schedu.led execution of the defendant-the
Court held a hearing, at which it determined that Dz'. Stewart's report provided suffi-evidence as to the defendant s state of mind to justify a full evidentiary hearing on
the petition for post-convicti.on relief. Upon being advised that Dr. Stewart was engagedin a murder tr.ial in Arizona, and thus would not be available to testify prior to the June6 scheduled execution ctate,the Court directed eounsel to take any appropriate action toseek a stay of execution until a hearing could be held.
8bf152012 1l:bb Z1b8b3bnla
?1{18} On June 5, 2012, the Court was advised that the Ohio Supreme Court had denied
the requested stay of execution;later that same day, however, Gov. John Kasich issued
I fourteen-day reprieve, unti110:00 a.m. on Jun.e 20, 2012, in order to permit the
ing to take place. Accordingly, on the morning of June 6 the Court called al1, covnsel into
{I chambers, in order to set a date for the hearing; upo.n.leaming that Dr. Stewart couldappear as early as June 12, the hearing was duly set for that date. The Cour.t was furtherinformed that Dr. Resnick had noted certa.iTi statements by the defendant reported by
Dr. Stewart that had not been made in his earlier eval.ua.ti.on. and that accordingly hewanted to re-interview Mr. Jawkal prior to his testuxr.ony. In, response the Court ordered
the defendant retumed to Cuyahoga County in time for that interview to take place, as }
well as a second interview by Dr. Noffsinger.1[19) The Court first must note that a trial courYs jurisd.iction. post-conviction is lim-
! ited to those situations where it is specifically granted. Such situations in:clude, ,for ex-
ample, judicial release and postconviction relief. On its face Ohio's Postconviction Reliefstatute (R.C. §§2953.21, et seq.) does not appear to be intended, to serve as a vehicle for
challenging a defendant's competence to be executed. However, in the closely analo-
gous situation o,f
an Atkins
determination (regarding a claim of mental retardation as a;
basis for asserting that t,he defendant is not competent to be executedl), the Ohio Su-
Court has held specifically that: "The procedures for postconviction relief out-
lfned in R.C. 2953.21 et seq. provide a suitable statutory £ram.ework for reviewing Lott's
claim " State z). Lott, 97 Ohio St. 3d 303, 202-Ohio-6625, at ¶13. The Court contin-
ues, setting forth fihe procedural framework for such a hearing:In considering anAtktins claim, the trial court shall conduct its own de novo re-view of the evidence in determin.ing whether the defendant is mentally retarded.
The trial court should rely on professiona,J. evaluations of Lott's mental status and
consider expert testimon,y, appointing experts if necessary, in deciding this mat-ter. The trial court shall make written findings and set forth its rationale for fin.d-ing the defendant mentally retarded or not mentally retarded. We believe thatthese matters should be decided by the court and do not represent a jury ques-tion. In this regard, a trial court's ruling on.mentaI retardation should be con.-
^I ' Atkins U. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002).

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