(CBS/AP) COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio Governor John Kasich sidestepped a decision about whether Ronald Post, a condemned inmate, was too fat to be humanely executed by sparing the prisoner on different grounds - that he had poor legal representation.
Kasich's decision to grant clemency to Post mirrored the recommendation of mercy by the state parole board, which said it didn't doubt Post's guilt but said there were too many problems with how he was represented 30 years ago.
Kasich, who commuted Post's sentence to life with no chance of parole, didn't mention Post's obesity claim in his statement. Post, who weighs 450 pounds, had been fighting his January execution on the grounds that he's too fat to be humanely put to death in federal court.
Post was scheduled to die Jan. 16 for killing Elyria motel clerk Helen Vantz in a 1983 robbery.
Vantz's sons, William and Michael, call Post's obesity claim "another way for a coward to try and get out of what debt he owes to society."
When the governor made his decision on Monday, he said all criminal defendants, regardless of the heinousness of the crimes, deserve an adequate defense.
"This decision should not be viewed by anyone as diminishing this awful crime or the pain it has caused," Kasich said.
The parole board rejected arguments made by Post's attorneys that he deserves mercy because of lingering doubts about his "legal and moral guilt" Vantz's death, but it said it couldn't ignore perceived missteps by his lawyers.
"Post took Vantz's life, devastating the lives of her loved ones in the process," the board said in its 5-3 decision. But it said a majority of its members agreed his sentence should be commuted to life in prison without chance of parole because of omissions, missed opportunities and questionable decisions made by his previous attorneys and because that legal representation didn't meet expectations for a death penalty case."
The long-held presumption that Post confessed to Vantz's murder to several people has been falsely exaggerated, Post's attorneys have argued. They say Post admitted involvement as the getaway driver to a police informant, but didn't admit to the killing.
"Sure ain't no murderer," Post told that informant, according to Post's clemency filing. Post's attorneys argued that prosecutors misrepresented to the judge that Post had confessed to sole involvement in Vantz's death.
"The death penalty should be reserved for cases where proof of guilt is reliable and the legal system produced a just result," the defense had said. "Neither criteria is met in this case."
Lorain County prosecutor Dennis Will had pointed to Post's written no contest plea, in which he acknowledged responsibility, as "a compelling reason" to reject clemency.
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