COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Parole Board on Wednesday rejected a plea for mercy by a condemned Ohio man who says he intended to rape his girlfriend's 6-month-old daughter but not to kill her, calling his crime "among the worst of the worst."
The board recommended unanimously that Gov. John Kasich allow the execution of Steven Smith to proceed next month.
The board said some arguments for sparing Smith, such as his turbulent childhood, were far outweighed by the nature of the crime.
"Smith took the life of an innocent 6-month-old infant while using the baby to sexually gratify himself," the board said. "It is hard to fathom a crime more repulsive or reprehensible in character. It is clearly among the worst of the worst."
The victim, Autumn Carter, died because Smith was too drunk to realize his assault was killing her, Smith's attorneys argued in court filings with the Ohio Parole Board, which heard the case last week. And Ohio law is clear, they said: A death sentence requires an intent to kill the victim.
"The evidence suggests that Autumn's death was a horrible accident," Smith's attorneys, Joseph Wilhelm and Tyson Fleming, said in a written argument prepared for the board.
They continued: "Despite the shocking nature of this crime, Steve's death sentence should be commuted because genuine doubts exist whether he even committed a capital offense."
The parole board rejected this argument, saying the "ferociousness" of the attack on the baby, which trial evidence said lasted as long as 30 minutes, was proof of Smith's intention to kill.
It "stretches credulity to think that Smith had no intention to kill Autumn when he assaulted her in a manner that made death a virtual certainty," the board said.
Smith, 46, was never charged with rape, meaning the jury's only choice was to convict or acquit him of aggravated murder, his attorneys say.
However, rape was included in the indictment against Smith as one of the factors making him eligible for the death penalty. Under Ohio law, an aggravated murder committed in the course of another crime — such as burglary, robbery, arson or the killing of a police officer or child — is an element that can make someone eligible for capital punishment.
Smith's attorneys did not immediately return messages seeking comment Wednesday.
Continue reading this story on the...