CINCINNATI — Odraye G. Jones, convicted of murdering an Ashtabula police officer 25 years ago, had his death sentence overturned Tuesday by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Three judges ruled that Jones’ sentence was negatively influenced by what they called a racist statement made by a clinical psychologist during the penalty phase of his trial.
Jones’ trial attorney presented testimony from a clinical psychologist who diagnosed him with antisocial personality disorder.
The psychologist testified that black men with this disorder (including Jones) would commit more murders. He said about one in four ‘urban African-American men’ have the disorder, and the only treatment for them is to ‘throw them out, lock them up’, according to Judge Richard Allen Griffin, one of the three panel members.
After hearing this testimony at Jones’ hearing, the Ashtabula County jury recommended the death penalty. The court accepted the recommendation and sentenced Jones to death.
In the ruling, Griffin argued Jones deserved a new sentencing hearing after his initial hearing was marred by “racialized testimony.” Griffin concluded that Jones could have received a lesser sentence if the psychologist’s testimony had not been presented.
A federal public defender from Pittsburgh represented Jones in the appeal, while an attorney from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office in Columbus represented the state.
Jones, now 46, has been on death row at Chillicothe Prison since 1998. No execution date has been set.
A jury found him guilty of the shooting death of Ashtabula police officer William D. Glover Jr., who was shot twice in the head and once in the shoulder on November 17, 1997.
Trial testimony revealed that when Glover fell to the ground, Jones ran and kicked him in the chest.
Ashtabula Police Chief Robert Stell, who was on patrol that night in 1997, apprehended Jones as he attempted to break into a nearby apartment.
Glover died of his gunshot wounds the following morning, surrounded by his wife, family and friends.
Several months later, a jury convicted Jones of capital murder. Jones challenged his conviction and sentence by direct appeal and post-conviction review in the Ohio courts, all of which upheld the conviction and sentence.
He then sought federal habeas relief. The district court denied Jones’ motion for a writ of habeas corpus, his proposed amendment to that motion, and a motion to dispense with judgment.
The three-judge circuit panel heard arguments on 13 issues certified for appeal and affirmed the district court’s judgment on all 13.
But after that argument, the judges issued a separate certificate of appeal for an additional issue: whether Jones received ineffective assistance from counsel during the penalty phase … as evidenced by the psychologist’s alleged racist testimony.
Judges returned the case to the district court with instructions to issue a writ of habeas corpus quashing Jones’ death sentence unless the State of Ohio proceeds with a new round of punishment within 180 days following the dismissal.
Glover’s widow, Marianne Glover Waldman, who now lives in Canada, said this turn of events was not fair.
“Twenty-five years ago, my life was taken from me; Billy Glover was the love of my life and now his killer…” she said, her voice trailing off with emotion. “We had three children and a perfect marriage at the time of his death. He was an incredible policeman and father.
Through her tears, Waldman said her husband believed in the future, in community policing and that he had done everything he could to let the children of Bonniewood know that a police officer was someone they could trust. The kids called him Officer Friendly, she said.
“Odraye Jones destroyed my life and it’s not fair if he ends his life in prison – it’s not fair,” she said. “He was sentenced by a jury of his peers of his generation, but according to today’s generation, he will not be sentenced to death. I know it and it hurts.
Jones’ adoptive grandmother, Theresa Lyons of Youngstown, repeatedly said she believed Jones was innocent.
Lyon could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.