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Lawson defense requests to drop death penalty

Jury questionnaires to go out in May

Suspected Decatur Township quadruple homicide killer Arron Lawson’s defense team has filed a motion to “dismiss capital components of this case due to constitutional and international law violations.”

The motion was one of at least 50 filed by the defense, which will be heard in Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Andy Ballard’s courtrooms during several pretrial hearings over the coming months. On Friday, Ballard accepted four defense motions and two of three prosecution motions, with the third to also be discussed at the next pretrial hearing.

“Defendant respectfully moves this court for an order dismissing that portion of the Aggravated Murder indictment in the above-captioned case that elevates the potential penalty from life imprisonment to death for the reasons stated in the accompanying Memorandum,” the motion states.

The motion goes on to state that Ohio’s death penalty law is unconstitutional and that it violates the United States’ obligations under international laws and treaties since the U.S. signed U.N.’s treaty against cruel, inhumane or degrading punishment.

The motion also states that the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the state’s capital statutory scheme, however, it did not rule on the international aspects of the death penalty.

Another argument for the dismissal of the death penalty in the case, according to the motion, is that the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment and that “the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection requires similar treatment of similarly situated persons. This extends to the protection against cruel and unusual punishment.”

It also states that the death penalty is not an effective means of deterring crimes, that it is often arbitrarily imposed, and that capital defendants who choose to have a jury trial risk death because juries can often make arbitrary judgments.

Another motion by the defense also requests sequestered voir dire, or individual questioning of each of the jury candidates to determine how each feels on the death penalty, publicity and other issues.

Defense motions 11-26 will be discussed at the next pretrial hearing, which is set for 10a.m. Monday, March 12.

Ballard, who is presiding over the case, said that questionnaires will be sent out on May 21 to 200 potential jury members, and that they will be chosen in a special jury draw.

The evidence of the case is currently sealed at this time, as Ballard said it is in a small community, he wanted to protect the potential jury and to try to keep the case in Lawrence County.

The trial is set to begin Monday, Aug. 6.