- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 10, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — OhioGov. John Kasich on Tuesday spared the condemned killer of a convenience store owner whose execution was opposed by the detective who investigated the slaying, the prosecutor who pushed for the death sentence and a judge who handed down the sentence.

Records show that death row inmate John Eley was offered the chance to escape the death penalty in exchange for testimony against his alleged conspirator, considered the mastermind of the slaying, but Eley refused to testify or take a deal.

Mr. Kasich said he based his decision on Eley’s acting under the direction of another, and what he called Eley’s limited mental capacity.

“Without those factors it is doubtful that Eley would have committed this crime,” said Mr. Kasich, who changed Eley’s sentence to life in prison with no chance of parole.

The governor also noted that the former Mahoning County prosecutor who tried Eley now regrets how the case was handled and its outcome, and has called for mercy.

The decision was the third time since taking office last year that Mr. Kasich, a Republican, has spared an inmate on the eve of execution.

Eley, 63, was scheduled to die July 26 for the 1986 killing of Ihsan Aydah, owner of Sinjil Market in Youngstown.

Records show that Eley was given the gun used in the shooting by accomplice Melvin Green, who told him to go into the store, where Green had been banned for making previous threats. Green was acquitted in a separate trial, a result blamed on Eley’s refusing to testify against him.

The Mahoning County prosecutor’s office expressed disappointment in the decision.

“The evidence may have suggested that Melvin originally came up with the plan, but Eley certainly went along with it,” said Assistant Prosecutor Ralph Rivera. “He was the one with the gun. He certainly was the one who pulled the trigger and killed the victim. It was his choice.”

Mr. Kasich’s decision overruled the Ohio Parole Board, which recommended against clemency in a 5-3 ruling last month, a rare divided vote in a death penalty case.

Assertions by supporters “do not outweigh the fact that Eley took the gun from Green, entered the store with the intent to rob the victim, knew that the victim had a gun and might try to use it, and then shot him in the head,” said members of the board ruling in favor of clemency.

A majority of the board also rejected claims by Eley’s lawyers that he is mentally ill and mentally disabled.

Former Mahoning County Prosecutor Gary Van Brocklin told the board in a videotaped statement that Green set up the entire robbery.

Mr. Van Brocklin said Tuesday that pushing for Eley to be spared was the right and fair thing to do, considering the facts of the case.

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