(Photo: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/Wikimedia Commons)
An obese death row inmate in Ohio, who is scheduled to be executed in January, could now receive clemency, after the state parole board recommended a life sentence instead of the death penalty.
The recommendation will now be placed before the state governor, who will have the ultimate decision over whether the original death sentence will be upheld or whether clemency will be given.
Ronald Post, 53, was sentenced to death in 1985 after being found guilty of the murder of Helen Vantz in 1983. The maximum penalty was given after he was convicted of the higher level aggravated murder of Vantz, who was a hotel clerk.
Post has been fighting his death penalty fiercely over recent years. According to reports, Post initially tried to delay his execution by claiming that his extra weight could cause severe pain during the procedure. He claimed his obesity had come about due to severe depression and loss of mobility in prison.
He insisted that due to his weight he did not have accessible veins in his arms or hands. He made his first appeal in 1997, but that was denied.
More recently another appeal was rejected by Judge Lesley Wells who said "that his medical condition has changed so significantly, or that Ohio's new lethal injection procedures have changed so radically, since he filed his first petition in 1997 that his original core complaints are transformed into something new."
Over the last few months his line of appeal has changed once again, as he claimed that while he was "complicit in the robbery" in 1983, he did not enter the hotel where Vantz was killed. Post said that another man shot Vantz during the robbery.
However, arguing for the prosecution, Dennis Will, has said that Post took full responsibility for his actions when he pleaded no contest to the crime in 1984, and that it would be wrong to allow an appeal at this time.
According to court documents, Post has now said that he knew two men were talking about robbing the hotel but never took their claims seriously. It "wasn't until the next day when he read in the papers about the murder, did he realize that they had been serious," reports stated.
Post is still at this point scheduled to die by lethal injection on Jan. 16, however, now in light of the new recommendation by the state parole board, it is unclear whether his sentence will be downgraded.
A spokesman for Ohio's Governor John Kasich stated that he has not decided how he will act on the clemency petition yet.
According to the board's clemency recommendation, Post had "perpetrated a horrendous crime," but it highlighted numerous omissions, missed opportunities, and questionable decisions by defense attorneys. Therefore, it recommended a life sentence would be more fitting in this instance than a death penalty.