A federal magistrate earlier this week recommended rejecting death row inmate Gerald Hand’s latest attempt to have his 2003 murder conviction overturned.
In a 185-page recommendation issued Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael R. Metz rejected or dismissed all 15 points lawyers representing Hand has raised in an attempt to have his case revisited. Defense attorneys had argued among other things that a judge improperly instructed jurors or failed to dismiss improper evidence, and that prosecutors improperly withheld evidence.
They had also argued that Hand’s previous defense attorneys did not mount a competent defense by failing to properly screen jurors and by not seeking out what medications Hand was taking during the trial.
Metz also rejected arguments that death by lethal injection, Ohio’s form of execution, is unconstitutional.
The court had partially granted Hand’s 2007 request to compel members of his previous legal team, including local attorneys Terry Sherman and Richard Cline to testify. That testimony took place in hearings on Feb. 11 and 12, 2010.
However, Metz found that Hand’s defense had been legally sufficient.
Hand’s legal team plans to object to the magistrate’s latest recommendation, Cincinnati-based defense attorney Jennifer M. Kinsley said in Wednesday court filing.
Hand’s lawyers have until June 13 to file those objections.
Once the magistrate makes a final recommendation, Hand’s lawyers will object again, Kinsley said in an e-mail to the Gazette. Once that recommendation is vetted, the U.S. judge that supervises the magistrate will make a ruling.
The latest step in the process could take anywhere from a few months to a year, Kinsley said.
Hand, 62, has been in prison since June 2003. A Delaware County jury convicted him in the 2002 murders of his fourth wife, Jill Hand, 58, and a friend, Walter Welch, 55, and sentenced him to death.
Hand has no current execution date. At one time, he was scheduled to be executed on April 25, 2006, but a judge postponed that date as the appeals process plays out, according to court records. The average Death Row inmate in Ohio waits 13 years before he or she is executed.
Hand arranged for Welch to kill his fourth wife at the Hands’ Delaware County, prosecutors argued in 2003. However, he then shot them both, killing them. Hand’s conviction was the first Delaware County death penalty conviction in recent memory.
The A&E cable television network portrayed Hand’s case as “The Black Widower” in 2004. During the trial, witnesses testified Welch had helped Hand kill his first two wives in Columbus. The two men split the resulting life insurance windfall, prosecutors argued.
Delaware County Common Pleas Court, the Ohio Fifth District Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court have all either denied Hand’s appeals, affirmed his conviction or otherwise ruled against him a half dozen times since 2005.
Since Hand has exhausted his appeals at the state level, he has turned to the federal courts. Once the U.S. district judge makes a ruling, Hand’s lawyers can take the case to a federal appeals judge and then the U.S. Supreme Court after that.