Ohio Supreme Court upholds conviction and death sentence for man convicted of shooting police officer

Court News Ohio reports that the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the conviction and death sentence yesterday for a man convicted of the 2008 killing of a Twinsburg, Ohio police officer. The defendant, Ashford L. Thompson, was convicted in 2010 for the shooting death of Joshua Miktarian. In July 2008, Miktarian followed Thompson's vehicle because of loud music and pulled him over as Thompson was turning into his driveway. The Cleveland Plain Dealer summarized the next series of events as follows:

"When Miktarian was handcuffing Thompson to place him under arrest, Thompson struggled, according to court records. Thompson had a permit to carry a concealed weapon and pulled the gun during the arrest. Miktarian had radioed for help two minutes into the stop. A 9-1-1 caller reported hearing loud shouting and "pop" sounds."

A jury convicted Thompson of aggravated-murder, escape, resisting arrest, tampering with evidence, and carrying a concealed weapon. He was sentenced to death for the aggravated murder conviction. Thompson appealed this conviction and sentence to the Ohio Supreme Court, raising 18 propositions of law. These include claims that Thompson's constitutional rights were violated because a juror was excluded based on race, because the court denied a request for change of venue and because of prosecutorial misconduct, including some remarks in closing statements which the Court agreed were inappropriate, but found would not have changed the outcome of the trial.

The justices reviewed each of the 18 propositions in a lengthy opinionpenned by Justice French, and unanimously ruled to uphold the conviction. The decision to uphold the death sentence was not unanimous, as Justices Pfeifer, Lanzinger and O'Neill dissented on this issue. Justice Pfeifer wrote a dissent in which Justice Lanzinger concurred, arguing that mitigating factors such as Thompson's history, character and background outweighed the aggravating factors that led to the death sentence, and that Thompson should be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Justice O'Neill penned his own dissent, arguing that the state did not prove the aggravating factor that Thompson killed Miktarian to escape detection or punishment beyond a reasonable doubt, and that Thompson's mitigating factors, such as his college education, steady job and community involvement, outweighed the remaining aggravating factor of Miktarian's status as a police officer.