Killer a prod­uct of vi­o­lence, panel told

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - By Marty Sch­laden

The evils in­flicted by and upon Alva Camp­bell are al­most unimag­in­able, but the Ohio Pa­role Board must weigh them over the next week.

Camp­bell’s life hangs in the bal­ance.

The board, which seemed skep­ti­cal of Camp­bell’s plea for clemency dur­ing a day­long hear­ing Thurs­day, must make a rec­om­men­da­tion to Gov. John Ka­sich by the end of next week. Ka­sich will then de­cide whether to com­mute Camp­bell’s sen­tence to life im­pris­on­ment, de­lay his ex­e­cu­tion or al­low it to take place as sched­uled Nov. 15.

Camp­bell, 69, is sen­tenced to die for the 1997 ag­gra­vated mur­der of 18-year-old Charles Di­als in Franklin County.

At­tor­neys and ad­vo­cates who are try­ing to stop the ex­e­cu­tion have ar­gued that Camp­bell is too ill to lie flat on the ex­e­cu­tion ta­ble. But on Thurs­day they fo­cused on the hor­rors of his child­hood at the hands of a drunken, abu­sive fa­ther and a state sys­tem they say failed him from the time he en­tered it at age 10.

Camp­bell’s abuse and ne­glect by his par­ents were “the worst I have seen in 35 years of do­ing cap­i­tal cases,” said David Steb­bins, one of his at­tor­neys.

Camp­bell was the mixed-race son of a racist, al­co­holic fa­ther who would make his chil­dren watch as he beat their mother bloody and of­ten un­con­scious, Steb­bins said. His fa­ther also beat the chil­dren and mo­lested Camp­bell’s sis­ters and most likely mo­lested Camp­bell as well, Steb­bins said.

Then, af­ter his fa­ther was im­pris­oned for in­cest, a 10-year-old Camp­bell be­gan a jour­ney through state fa­cil­i­ties that didn’t pro­tect him. Lighter than 90 per­cent of boys his age and shorter than 80 per­cent, Camp­bell was an easy tar­get for older, big­ger boys who beat and raped him, said Bob Stinson, a psy­chol­o­gist who has ex­am­ined Camp­bell.

“His only pro­tec­tion was act­ing out sex­u­ally,” Stinson said.

Camp­bell bounced from fa­cil­ity to fa­cil­ity in a sys­tem that ware­housed him in­stead of try­ing to help him, Stinson said.

“His needs were not met in any way by the state,” Clemens Bar­tol­las, a so­ci­ol­o­gist and crim­i­nol­o­gist, said in video­taped tes­ti­mony. “It’s to­tally in­ex­cus­able how neg­li­gent they were in deal­ing with the needs of this child.”

But the vi­o­lence of Camp­bell’s adult­hood might be even greater than the hor­ror of his child­hood.

“Mr. Camp­bell is the most vi­o­lent crim­i­nal (case) with­out ques­tion that I have ever worked on,” said Franklin County Pros­e­cu­tor Ron O’Brien, who per­son­ally han­dled Camp­bell’s death penalty case.

On April 2, 1997, Camp­bell was be­ing taken by a deputy to a court hear­ing to re­voke his pa­role from an ear­lier mur­der con­vic­tion when, af­ter fak­ing paral­y­sis, he took a deputy’s gun and es­caped. While flee­ing, he car­jacked and mur­dered Di­als. He al­ready had ad­mit­ted to a string of armed rob­beries since be­ing re­leased from prison in 1992, mean­ing that once his pa­role was re­voked, he’d never get out of prison.

And in 1972, when Camp­bell robbed and mur­dered Wil­liam Do­val­osky in a Cleve­land tav­ern, he also was on pa­role — from a 1967 con­vic­tion for shoot­ing a State High­way Pa­trol trooper. At 16, Camp­bell was tried as an adult and con­victed for the shoot­ing and yet an­other string of armed rob­beries.

“If we have a death penalty in Ohio, he’s a poster child for it,” O’Brien said, re­peat­ing a line he used at Camp­bell’s trial.

As they lis­tened to ar­gu­ments Thurs­day, some mem­bers of the pa­role board in­di­cated they be­lieved that how­ever aw­ful, Camp­bell’s child­hood didn’t excuse his life of vi­o­lence.

“Sadly, this isn’t the most vi­o­lent up­bring­ing we’ve ever seen,” Trayce Thal­heimer, the board’s vice chair­woman, said, point­ing out that many of those in­mates never ended up on death row. “It’s not in­evitable that be­cause of your back­ground that you end up do­ing some­thing like this.”

The board also seemed to strug­gle with the ques­tion of how long an adult can con­tinue to blame his be­hav­ior on past problems, no mat­ter how hor­rific. R.F. Rauschen­berg noted that Camp­bell was 48 when he mur­dered Di­als in cold blood.

And the board, which reg­u­larly deals with Ohio’s worst crim­i­nals, seemed struck by Camp­bell’s vi­o­lence.

“The level of vi­o­lence we see in his­tory is re­mark­able, and we see a lot of vi­o­lence,” Rauschen­berg said.

The fam­ily of a man who died days af­ter he was in Colum­bus po­lice cus­tody filed a fed­eral law­suit against the po­lice di­vi­sion Thurs­day seek­ing more than $2 mil­lion, al­leg­ing that ex­ces­sive po­lice force con­trib­uted to his death.

Jaron B. Thomas, 36, died Jan. 23 at River­side Methodist Hospi­tal. He had called po­lice from a North Lin­den res­i­dence on Me­d­ina Av­enue on Jan. 14 say­ing that he was afraid he was dy­ing and he was hear­ing voices.

“I feel like I’m go­ing to get shot. And I’m re­ally para­noid be­cause I was high. And it feels like I’m go­ing to die or some­thing,” Thomas told the dis­patcher on a 911 call.

In a 23-page law­suit filed Thurs­day, the fam­ily is seek­ing more than $1 mil­lion in puni­tive dam­ages and more than $1 mil­lion in com­pen­satory dam­ages.

The Franklin County Coroner’s Of­fice ruled that Thomas’ death was ac­ci­den­tal and his cause of death was due to a lack of oxy­gen to his brain that was caused by car­diac ar­rest and co­caine tox­i­c­ity. Be­cause the coroner ruled it an ac­ci­den­tal death, the Franklin County Pros­e­cut­ing At­tor­ney’s Of­fice de­clined to present the case to a grand jury, ac­cord­ing to a case file from the po­lice to­tal­ing more than 200 pages.

An in­ter­nal po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the in­ci­dent is still pend­ing, a spokesper­son con­firmed Thurs­day.

Thomas showed signs of ex­cited delir­ium, ac­cord­ing to the coroner’s re­port. That’s a med­i­cal con­di­tion in which a per­son be­comes un­con­trol­lable and can ex­ert them­selves un­til the heart stops.

“Mr. Thomas died due to ex­cited delir­ium syn­drome which, in re­sponse to the use of ex­ces­sive force by po­lice of­fi­cers, pumped so much adren­a­line into his body that it func­tioned as the equiv­a­lent of a heart at­tack or res­pi­ra­tory fail­ure,” said Sean Wal­ton, an at­tor­ney with the firm Wal­ton + Brown who rep­re­sents Thomas’ fam­ily, in a re­leased state­ment.

The force used on Thomas by po­lice con­trib­uted to his death, Wal­ton said. Ac­cord­ing to po­lice re­ports, it took at least three of­fi­cers to take Thomas into cus­tody. His in­juries in­cluded abra­sions and bruis­ing, as well as a few bro­ken ribs.

Thomas was on the ground and be­gan kick­ing while of­fi­cers were wait­ing for an am­bu­lance. One of­fi­cer took Thomas’ legs and folded them in a max­i­mum re­straint po­si­tion to keep him from kick­ing. An­other of­fi­cer said, “I think the guy stopped breath­ing,” ac­cord­ing to re­ports. Of­fi­cers de­tected a faint pulse. Medics ar­rived within sec­onds and chest com­pres­sions fol­lowed shortly af­ter. Thomas died nine days later in the hospi­tal.

Thomas, a Colum­bus na­tive, had three chil­dren and was a mem­ber of Mt. Ver­non African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church. His fam­ily said he was a “gifted hip-hop lyri­cist” and a part­ner in 7th Sign Regime Record La­bel, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

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