- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Gov. John Kasich’s decision not to make a former death row inmate eligible for parole was “devastating,” the inmate said in his first interview after the governor spared his life.

Arthur Tyler, who was moved off death row last Thursday, said he plans to file another request for clemency and still hopes to leave prison someday.

Tyler, 54, was scheduled to die later this month for the 1983 fatal shooting of Cleveland produce vendor Sander Leach during a robbery. Tyler and his attorneys say Tyler’s co-defendant fired the fatal shot.

That man, Leroy Head, made numerous statements over the years taking responsibility for the shooting. He was released from prison in 2008.

“It was devastating, but, you know, it is what it is,” Tyler said in a Monday interview conducted by reporter Marc Kovac with the Ohio Legislative Correspondents Association.

“I’ve just got to hope that one day I still have a chance to go home,” he said.

Last week, the Ohio Parole Board ruled unanimously in favor of sparing Tyler. The board split 6-5 in favor of making him immediately eligible for parole, with a minority of board members recommending he be made eligible in two years.

The parole board did the right thing, Tyler said.

“And the governor just snatched it way. I don’t know why. I’m still trying to get my head around it,” Tyler said. “He just snatched it way and, like I said, here I sit.”

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols declined to comment.

Tyler repeated that he didn’t shoot Leach. “Thirty years ago, a boy killed a man. He was with me, but I had nothing to do with this crime,” Tyler said.

Head has not returned phone messages left by The Associated Press. Tyler’s attorneys told the parole board last week they met with Head but he did not want to cooperate.

Tyler was moved from death row in Chillicothe south of Columbus to Trumbull Correctional Institution in northeast Ohio, a prison just below maximum security. He called the transition “surreal.”

He spends his days writing emails and letters and meditating, he said.

“I’m basically just staying out of the way. That’s all,” he said. “Let my lawyers and everybody do their work. I have to be OK. I have to keep focused, that’s all.”


Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

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