Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ohio Prosecutors Fight Victim's Family on Execution

Johnnie Baston was convicted of robbing Continental Wigs & Things in Toledo, Ohio on March 21, 1994. He shot Chong Hoon Mah in the back of the head execution-style. Mah was a former South Korean journalist who had immigrated to America, according to the Toledo Blade.

Baston never admitted to being the shooter. Although he admitted to being present, he suggested a phantom co-conspirator was responsible for Mah's death. The jury didn't buy it and convicted him of murder and sentenced him to death.

Now, prosecutors are in the unusual position of opposing the wishes of the victims family in fighting a request for clemency by Baston. Mah's family is opposed to Baston execution. The Blade reported, no members of the Mah family attended the hearing, but they sent word through a spokesman and an affidavit from Mr. Mah's son, Peter, that the family did not want to see the death penalty imposed after the trial and doesn't want the sentence carried out now.

Prosecutor's argued vehemently against giving the victim's position any credence.

"If you take the victim's family's wishes out of this, this is like many other felony murders in which this board has recommended no clemency. . ." said Assistant Attorney General Srephen Maher. "Is the victim's family's wishes a trump card that would trump a request that does not warrant clemency?"

"The law and facts and circumstances still have to trump the victims' wishes, and that's how it should be," Prosecutor Julie Bates told the board.

Baston's family at the hearing, asked the board to commute the sentence to life in prison without possibility of parole, an option not legally available at the time that a three-judge panel convicted him. It is a legal option now.

"The Mah family believes Johnnie to be the only shooter, and they still want to show him mercy," Mary Sue Barone told the Blade. Barone who got to know the Mah family when she was part of the team that successfully prosecuted Baston after the murder nearly 17 years ago. She's now a supervisor in the Wood County Public Defender's office.

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