Ohio Governor John Kasich late Tuesday afternoon unexpectedly used his executive clemency power to postpone the execution of Abdul Awkal just hours before he was set to die for killing his estranged wife and brother-in-law in a Cleveland courthouse in 1992, the Columbus Dispatch reported yesterday morning. That will give Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman the necessary time to hold another hearing to determine whether Awkal is mentally competent to be executed.
There were varying reports of Awkal's background, marital problems and mental state throughout his trial and during the years he has spent on Death Row, according to the Dispatch's story, along with conflicting reports during and after the trial about his mental condition at the time of the shootings and the trial. Several doctors have recently deemed Awkal fit for execution, but attorneys at the Justice and Policy Center who represent Awkal, located a California-based psychiatrist who said Awkal was unfit. In addition, Phillip Resnick, one of three psychiatrists who originally found Awkal competent, now says he's uncertain.
A New York Times editorial yesterday morning contended "the state trial judge last Monday found there was enough evidence to justify a hearing about Awkal's sanity but that he could not hold one immediately because witnesses were not available. The Ohio Supreme Court should have granted a stay of execution, which it wrongly denied shortly before the governor stepped in because of the trial court's finding.
Kasich denied clemency for Awkal without comment last week. The Governor's office said that the reprieve, requested by Awkal's attorneys, not a court or judge, was an "internal decision" made solely on its own authority.
Ohio's supreme court set a new execution date of June 20 for Awkal, pending the outcome of that hearing.