COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A condemned U.S. inmate who weighs 450 pounds (204 kilograms) should be spared based on claims raising doubts about his legal representation, not because he says he's so fat he can't be humanely executed, the Ohio Parole Board ruled Friday.
The board rejected arguments made by attorneys for Ronald Post that he deserves mercy because of lingering doubts about his "legal and moral guilt" in a woman's death, but it said it couldn't ignore perceived missteps by lawyers in his case.
The board's recommendation goes to Gov. John Kasich, who has the final say. Post is scheduled to die Jan. 16 for killing motel clerk Helen Vantz in a 1983 robbery.
"Post took Vantz's life, devastating the lives of her loved ones in the process," the board said. But it said a majority of its members agreed that his sentence should be commuted to life in prison without chance of parole because of omissions, missed opportunities and questionable decisions made by his previous attorneys and because that legal representation didn't meet expectations for a death penalty case.
His current attorneys said they were pleased by the recommendation.
"In the nearly 30 years since his case began, Ronald Post has too often been failed by the attorneys assigned to represent him, beginning at his trial," public defenders Joe Wilhelm and Rachel Troutman said in a statement.
Post is also fighting his execution on the grounds that he is so fat he can't be humanely executed and will suffer cruel and unusual punishment as the state struggles to find his veins or give him enough drugs to put someone his size to death. A federal judge hears arguments in that case Monday.
Doubt about Post's guilt lingers because of the involvement of two other men in the shooting, Post's attorneys argue. Post pleaded no contest to the crime on the advice of his attorney in expectation he would receive a life sentence, the attorneys argue. Even after his plea, he told a psychologist "he was not a murderer."
The attorneys argue that prosecutors misrepresented to the judge that Post had confessed to sole involvement in the killing.
Associated Press writer Kantele Franko contributed to this report.