Court turns down claim of Roberts

WARREN – The U.S. Supreme Court turned down the latest claim of Donna Roberts Ohio’s only female death row inmate who will soon be scheduled for a resentencing on her murder case.

It will be the third formal sentencing for Roberts of Howland, whose claim would have allowed her to remitigate her case.

Roberts was originally sentenced to death more than 10 years ago for a plan she hatched with her ex-convict lover to kill her husband and collect insurance proceeds.

Roberts’ attorney in January filed with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a writ that would allow him to present evidence and testimony to persuade a judge why the 69-year-old woman should be spared the death sentence.

Against the advice of her trial attorneys, Roberts chose not to offer any mitigation evidence at her 2003 capital murder trial. She was even examined by a psychological expert to make sure she was competent to make that decision.

Former Common Pleas Judge John M. Stuard presided over the trial and the first resentencing. The case has now been turned over to Judge Ronald Rice since Stuard retired and has since died.

Through her appellate attorney, Roberts sought to present claims that she grew up in a very abusive household, was raped by a cousin, had been injured and hospitalized after three serious car accidents, suffered from depression, attempted suicide and experienced hallucinations.

Assistant county prosecutor LuWayne Annos argued that Stuard clearly heard Roberts’ allocution, a statement made by a defendant to the court, and even referred to it from the bench during the second resentencing, but simply forgot to put those references in the written sentencing memorandum that Ohio justices reviewed.

”This was not remanded for purposes of a new mitigation hearing of the presentation of evidence or testimony deliberately waived by (Roberts). This case presents absolutely no constitutional implications,” Annos stated in her written arguments filed last month. ”At no point during the statement (allocution) did (Roberts) express remorse for the murder nor did she ask the court to spare her life.”

Another resentencing for Roberts hasn’t been scheduled yet.

The case arose from the murder of Robert Fingerhut, who operated Greyhound bus terminals in Warren and Youngstown. Roberts lived with Fingerhut, who was her former husband. Fingerhut owned two life insurance policies, with a total benefit of $550,000 and named Roberts as the sole beneficiary.

At some point while living in an Avalon Drive home with Fingerhut, Roberts had an affair with Nathaniel Jackson. In 2001, Jackson was sent to prison. During his imprisonment, Roberts and Jackson talked by phone and exchanged letters. Those conversations and their correspondence, monitored by prison authorities, revealed that they planned to murder Fingerhut and served as key evidence for the prosecution during trial.

In December 2001, Jackson was released from prison. Roberts picked him up from prison, and spent that night and most of the next few days with him. Two days after Jackson’s release, Fingerhut, 57, was shot to death at home. Jackson was convicted of murdering Fingerhut and was sentenced to death.