Nearly 25 years since the rape and murder of 22-year-old Joy Morningstar Stewart, the man convicted and sentenced to die for her brutal death may be executed on Thursday, Jan. 16.
Dennis McGuire’s execution date was one of two set by the Ohio Supreme Court two years ago. The state plans to use a never-tried lethal injection process on the 53-year-old McGuire, with the specific chemicals to be announced two weeks before the execution.
McGuire’s new layers argued before the Ohio Parole Board recently that he deserves mercy because of his chaotic and abusive childhood and the failure of his original attorneys to work hard enough on his behalf.
McGuire also was mentally, physically and sexually abused as a child and has impaired brain function that makes him prone to act impulsively, the lawyers said in a filing with the board, which heard McGuire’s case for clemency late last month.
“Dennis was at risk from the moment he was born. The lack of proper nutrition, chaotic home environment, abuse, lack of positive supervision and lack of positive role models all affected Dennis’ brain development,” the lawyers said in the filing.
McGuire is scheduled to die next week for the February 1989 stabbing death of the pregnant Stewart.
Ohio’s supply of its former drug, pentobarbital, has expired, and FDA-regulated versions are no longer available because the manufacturer has put it off limits for executions, according to officials.
That leaves Ohio with two choices. The first is a specialty dose of pentobarbital from compounding pharmacies, which are registered with the state but not federally regulated.
The second is a two-drug combination of a sedative, midazolam, and a painkiller, hydromorphone, which has never been used in a U.S. execution.
Prosecutors in Preble County say a death sentence is appropriate for such a shocking crime. Stewart, 22, was newly married and about 30 weeks pregnant when she was killed.
“One can scarcely conceive of a sequence of crimes more shocking to the conscience or to moral sensibilities than the senseless kidnapping and rape of a young, pregnant woman followed by her murder,” prosecutors said in their filing with the board.
DNA tests over the years have established McGuire as the killer.
McGuire’s attorneys say a plea bargain that was offered to McGuire but rejected should be taken into consideration, since it shows the state at one time didn’t believe a death sentence was necessary.
Prosecutors say McGuire’s decision not to accept that offer is part of his refusal to accept responsibility for the crime.
McGuire was convicted of kidnapping, rape and murder. The body of Stewart, who was eight months pregnant at the time of her death, was found near a bridge on Bantas Creek Road.
A Preble County jury recommended McGuire be sentenced to death, a recommendation followed by the trial court judge. The same year, the 12th District Court of Appeals affirmed both the conviction and the sentence. His execution was originally scheduled for April 8, 1999.
A petition by McGuire in Preble County Common Pleas Court for post-conviction relief was denied and affirmed on appeal, as was a second petition on constitutional issues. In April 2001, the 12th District Court of Appeals upheld his conviction and death sentence.
McGuire’s case has remained in the court system since his conviction, and continued through many appeals.
Among McGuire’s arguments, was that he was “not permitted to introduce evidence”’ which might have shown sexually transferred DNA “could have come from two sources rather than a single source.” The other source McGuire cited possible was the victim’s husband.
McGuire has also the trial court erred in not allowing him to present evidence “in the form of a hearsay statement from David Lindloff, an investigator with the Preble County Coroner’s Office,” according to court documents. He claimed the evidence was “relevant because, construed broadly, it suggested ” the victim’s husband, not McGuire, could have committed the crimes.”
McGuire is Preble County’s only death row inmate. He has been incarcerated at the Mansfield Correctional Institution.
(AP reports contributed to this article.)