Ohio Report on Death Row Suicide: Prison Guard Logs Falsified

Ohio Death Row Inmate Billy Slagle committed suicide on in the early morning hours of August 4, three days before his scheduled execution. An official "after action review report" publicly released yesterday finds the guards did not make their required rounds every 30 minutes as required and that the electronic logs about one guard's rounds that evening were falsified. Videos show the actual time the rounds occurred.

According to the review, DRC officer John McCollister, 30, falsely indicated on the prison's electronic log that Slagle's death row cell was checked consistently in 30-minute intervals, as required by the DRC, during the overnight shift.

The log shows rounds were conducted in the required intervals beginning at 10 p.m. Aug. 3 – when the shift began -- until about 5 a.m. Aug. 4, when Slagle's body was found hanging in the cell. The DRC review states that corrections officer Clay Putnam, 19, conducted the shift's first check on Slagle's cell at 11:20 p.m. and that he completed rounds once every hour beginning just after 2 a.m.

The actual report is available here. It concludes: [More...]

It appears from the full investigation of the incident by CCI and DRC/OSC that Officer Putnam did not perform rounds as required by Post Orders. Additionally, it appears that Officer McCollister, and possibly Officer Putnam, did falsify the electronic log book for rounds.

No interviews were done of these employees by CCI after-action or DRC/OSC after action teams. Both employees are on administrative leave, and these facts were reported to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. CCI has been advised that the Ohio State Highway Patrol does not intend to bring criminal charges against Putnam and McCollister.

The report also says all six officers on death row units that night were relief officers without training specific to death row, and one of the officers was still on probationary status. On the training inadequacy:

Relevant Facts: On the night of the incident, 28 of the 39 security posts were filled with a relief officer. In the Death Row blocks that evening, all 6 officers were relief. Officer Putnam was a probationary officer.

Conclusions: When Death Row was first moved to CCI, a pool of relief officers received an additional 8 hours of training specific to Death Row Housing. This was done so that when a relief officer was placed on one of the Death Row ranges, they would be selected from this pool.That practice is no longer being followed.

Slagle was scheduled to be executed on August 7. The current prosecutor had told the parole board he did not oppose clemency and thought he should not be executed.

His Aug. 7 execution appeared on track despite the plea for mercy from the prosecutor in Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland, who argued that Slagle should never have received a death sentence.

Prosecutor Tim McGinty cited Slagle's age — he was just 18 when he fatally stabbed his neighbor Mari Anne Pope — and a long history of drug and alcohol addiction. McGinty said under his office's current policy he would not have pursued a death penalty charge.

On August 1, the Slagle filed a motion for stay of execution which the prosecutors opposed. (They explain why they supported clemency but oppose a stay or motion to vacate his sentence.) His lawyer met with him on August 2. That evening, on the way home from the jail, Slagle's lawyer learned the prosecutors would not oppose a request for a stay on different grounds. Here is his lawyer's full account. Slagle's lawyers e-mailed the warden to request a meeting with Slagle on August 5 to tell him the news and their opinion that if the state didn't object to the stay, it would almost certainly be granted. By then, he was dead.

This is Ohio's 8th jail suicide this year. Ariel Castro's suicide was after Slagle's, and inmate James Blackburn committed suicide after Castro.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Death row prisoners committing suicide (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Dadler on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 10:43:10 AM EST
    There's something so perfectly American about it, satire would be busting a gut laughing if she weren't so busy shaking her head and wondering WTF is wrong with this place.

    I hear that... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 12:33:27 PM EST
    how dare the condemned die on their own terms.

    "Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules!"


    Not to Sound Crass... (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 01:22:04 PM EST
    ...but wasn't suicide the choice of the defendant.

    Plus whose to say that a man can't hang himself in 30 mins if the patrols were done like clockwork.

    The assumption is that the news of clemency is such great news the defendant would not have taken his life.  Maybe, but know one knows.

    There is no excuse for guards in a prison to not 'do the rounds' for whatever reason, but hanging a suicide on the guard or the state is a very hard sell.  

    As mentioned above, the idea of a suicide watch is ridiculous.  I never understood why we want to keep someone alive, in this case, to get their 5 lbs of flesh, if they would rather die.  It's the only freedom that everyone, including prisoners whould be able decide for themselves.  I can see watching the newbies cause they might not be in the right frame of mind, but at some point you just gotta let a person take their own life if they want to.

    Fail to see your point (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by MO Blue on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 07:14:36 PM EST
    Did you bother to read what people wrote in their comments on this thread prior to making your comment?

    At the time of your post, there were 6 people who made comments. None of the 6 stated an objection to him taking his life and most defended his right to chose his method of death. Seems to me that their stand is very consistent with defending a person's right to starve himself to death rather than to be force fed. Nothing the least bit ironic about it IMO.


    Why (none / 0) (#1)
    by Mikado Cat on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 05:46:52 AM EST
    deny a deathrow inmate the right to die?

    OTOH how much training is needed to look in the cells once every half hour?

    Oops. (none / 0) (#3)
    by scribe on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 07:15:26 AM EST
    The CCI here is Chillicothe Correctional Institiution, not Corrections Corporation of America, Inc.  

    I still think the guard was catching a nap.

    Just a little background info. (none / 0) (#5)
    by leftwig on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 11:55:32 AM EST
    On August 13, 1987, Slagle murdered his 40-year-old neighbor, Mari Anne Pope, in her Cleveland home. Slagle broke into Ms. Pope's house, stabbed her 17 times and beat her in the head and face. Two children witnessed Slagle attacking Ms. Pope and escaped from the house. Police arrested Slagle in Ms. Pope's house, holding a pair of bloody scissors, where he admitted to the murder.

    Slagle has been on death row since May 13, 1988.

    the crime is immaterial (none / 0) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 04:20:03 PM EST
    No one argued he didn't commit the crime. Please don't distract from the issue.