Court to revisit death sentence

COLUMBUS – The Ohio Supreme Court will revisit the case of the state’s only female death row inmate next week.

The high court has scheduled arguments Tuesday in the case of Donna Roberts, who was sentenced to die in 2003 for killing her ex-husband after plotting the slaying with her boyfriend.

Roberts’ attorneys plan to argue that evidence showing their client was mentally ill and suffered brain trauma should have been considered by the trial court that resentenced her to the death penalty in 2007.

The discovery of a prosecutor’s involvement in writing Roberts’ death penalty sentencing order led the high court to overturn her sentence in 2006. A judge and the prosecutor were publicly reprimanded but the trial court decided again on a death sentence.

The lone woman facing the death penalty in the state, the 68-year-old Roberts is incarcerated at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.

When she was initially sentenced in 2003, Roberts became the first woman sent to the state’s death row since 1991, when Gov. Richard Celeste commuted the sentences of four condemned women and four condemned men to life in prison.

Roberts and Nathaniel Jackson, 28 years her junior, were convicted in the 2001 murder of Robert Fingerhut, Roberts’ former husband. Prosecutors described how the pair had detailed their plans in a correspondence carried on while Jackson, of Youngstown, was behind bars on a previous conviction.

The two carried on a brief love affair and planned to cash in on life insurance proceeds after Fingerhut, of Howland, who operated Greyhound Bus terminals in Warren and Youngstown, was shot to death, according to prosecutors who presented a series of prison love letters that outlined the murder plot.

Jackson also was sentenced to death.