Kevin Scudder, age 37, was convicted in 1990 of murdering Tina Baisden, age 14. The charge of aggravated murder included attempted rape and kidnapping specifications. On December 14, 1990, Scudder was sentenced to death.

The basic facts of the case are these: On February 6, 1989, Baisden left her home in the company of Scudder and two others. On February 7, early in the morning, Scudder came home wounded and was taken to Mt. Carmel Hospital. Later, Baisden’s body was found in a field near Scioto Downs. She had been stabbed 46 times.

Even though Scudder has maintained his innocence of the crime, he told his attorney in December 1998 that he was “tired of living on death row” and that he wanted to waive his remedies and be “put down” by the state; a month later, he explained to his attorney that “the voices in his head told him not to appeal or he would die that night” (Affidavit of Attorney Keith A. Yeazel, filed Jan. 20, 1999). The attorney had serious doubts about Scudder’s competency, and he expressed them to the Ohio Supreme Court. However, Scudder changed his mind and sought further review of his case. He continued with this determination for the last year. Then, on January 7, 2000 Kevin Scudder refused to sign a habeas petition and informed his attorney that he wanted to be executed. The Ohio Supreme Court set an execution date – April 25, 2000.

Scudder has a legal history and a long history of physical and mental health problems that raises serious questions about his competency. He was born with a cleft palate and amblyopia. He has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, organic brain damage, sociopathy and drug dependence. He was charged with breaking a man’s jaw in 1980, but found not guilty due to insanity. He was committed to the Lima State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and sent to the Central Ohio Psychiatric Hospital and the Mansfield Correctional Institution. In the Franklin County Correction Center, he is reported to have attempted to hang himself, and there are further indications of suicidal tendencies in the record. After his leg was broken in a 1982 auto accident, he insisted it was cancerous and demanded to have it amputated. The leg was finally amputated when a deep venous thrombosis was detected. He is now catheterized and in a wheelchair.

The record clearly shows that Scudder has suffered all his life from emotional disturbance and serious mental illness and that he has, in fact, been found incompetent once. His present lawyers have filed 24 separate claims for relief, beginning with the claim that the defendant “was incompetent to stand trial or go forward with any subsequent legal proceedings. No court evaluated his competency in compliance with federal constitutional standards” (Habeas Petition, p.1). The next friend petition itself raises the question of competency that must be resolved before Scudder may be allowed to waive his remedies. Whatever the courts should decide about Scudder’s competency during past proceedings, they ultimately might need to address his competency to be executed since the execution of the insane has been found unconstitutional as a violation of the Eighth Amendment (Ford v. Wainwright, 1986). Now that the case has been brought before District Court, Judge Marbley is proceeding with a competency hearing.

If Scudder is allowed to waive his remedies and be executed, major questions about the constitutionality of his case will never be answered. In addition to the question of competency to stand trial or to go forward with subsequent legal proceedings, there are significant questions about evidentiary issues, including the evidence obtained during an illegal search and seizure but still admitted at trial; the witness, never called, who might have placed the victim near the crime scene with other people at a time Scudder could not have been there; and seriously flawed DNA results, never adequately critiqued. The problem with all cases involving volunteers is that the habeas process is not completed, so the public has no assurance about constitutionality.

On February 19 last year, Wilford Berry became the first death row inmate executed in Ohio in 36 years. Berry had also “volunteered” to be executed and had a lifetime of serious mental illness. It should be a matter of grave concern to the people of the state of Ohio that homicide is committed in our names with our tax dollars. If the courts fail with Scudder, the Ohioans to Stop Executions will appeal to the governor to grant him clemency. Since time is short, if no stay is issued, we believe Ohioans opposed to the death penalty should contact the governor now, urging clemency.

To get involved in the movement to stop the death penalty, contact Ohioans to Stop Executions, 224-7147.

Excerpted from a series of articles by Michael Manley, anti-death penalty activist, from the “STOPPIT,” a publication of the Ohioans to Stop Executions.

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