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Mailing It In
October 28, 2008 - Joe Gorman
After watching the mitigation proceedings in the Bennie Adams trial Tuesday, it is not hard to figure out why defendants are rarely sentenced to death in Mahoning County.
Although the burden is on the state to show why a defendant in a criminal case should be put to death, I have yet to see them present evidence to a jury why that it is the appropriate punishment.
Adams was convicted last week of the murder of 19-year-old Gina Tenney, whose body was found floating in the Mahoning River on Dec. 30, 1985. DNA collected at the crime scene was matched to Adams last October, when he was arrested.
Of course, the jury was not allowed to consider rape charges because the judge ruled the statute of limitations expired -- although they could hear the evidence that Adams' semen was found on the body.
Prosecutors did not call a single witness, made a brief opening statement, and did not challenge any of the defense witnesses during cross examination.
I have covered three capital cases and this seems par for the course. It is almost like prosecutors say to themselves, ``Hey, we got a conviction. Our work is done.'
Instead, it was all about Bennie and how he grew up in prison, took care of his relatives, preached responsibilty to his kids and fellow inmates and worked double shifts at his job when he got out.
Not one word about the college sophomore who was raped, strangled and thrown off a bridge into the frigid waters of the Mahoning like someone crumpling up a french fry wrapper and tossing it out of their car. Or keeping quiet about it for 22 years.
Perhaps that is not appropriate because the defendant will be deprived of his rights. And we will get to hear about the victim at sentencing.
And I don't want anyone to think I am clamoring for death sentences all the time. I am actually opposed to capital punishment.
But at least the prosecutors in these cases can earn their keep and put on some type of case.
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