John Spirko was commuted by Governor Strickland in Ohio. DNA fails to link him to the crime for which he was scheduled to die in a few weeks. I should note I am sure David or Abe (an Ohio native) will have more.
I also find that the lack of physical evidence linking Mr. Spirko to the above-mentioned murder, combined with the slim residual doubt about his responsibility for the murder arising from a careful scrutiny of the case record and revelations about the case over the last 20 years, makes the imposition of the death penalty in this case inappropriate.
From Mr. Spirko’s counsel:
John Spirko is an innocent man who has spent 25 very long and hard years in prison — 23 on death row — for a crime he did not commit. There can be no joy in the commutation of an innocent man’s sentence to life without parole. The positive thing about Governor Strickland’s commutation is that the State will now not execute an innocent man and that we can, and will, continue to fight for Mr. Spirko’s complete exoneration and release.
We had told Governor Strickland that Mr. Spirko was prepared to waive all his constitutional rights to allow the Van Wert County Prosecutor to again try him and seek the death penalty in a fair and honest trial — not the trial he got in 1984, filled as it was with false evidence and a false theory of the case. All Mr. Spirko has ever asked for was to be judged fairly and honestly. We all now know that there is absolutely not one shred of evidence — physical, forensic or otherwise — linking Mr. Spirko to this crime. The recent DNA and fingerprint results for which we waited more than two years confirm that Mr. Spirko was not present at the crime scenes. Objectively corroborated evidence confirms that Mr. Spirko was meeting in Toledo with his parole officer at the very time this crime was being committed in Elgin, 100 miles away.
We will continue to urge Governor Strickland and Attorney General Dann to review Mr. Spirko’s claims of actual innocence so that justice will be served by Mr. Spirko’s release from prison and by finally prosecuting those actually responsible for Mrs. Mottinger’s murder.
Congrats go out to the Pilsbury team. I should note this is the second time this week that Ohio has conceded in cases with execution dates or which have had serious execution dates that the the Buckeye system is broken by either accepting a nolo contendre plea to time served or now, a commutation.