Brett Hartman: Ohio prepares to execute killer who stabbed woman

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections shows death row inmate Brett Hartman. A federal judge who has delivered harsh criticism about the state's execution process over the past year heaped praise on the Ohio prisons director and his hands-on approach in a recent ruling on Hartman. The comments by judge Gregory Frost raised the possibility that the state has overcome problems with its capital punishment policies that have delayed several executions. Frost's comments came in a ruling that refused to stop the Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, execution of Hartman, who stabbed an Akron woman more than 100 times, then cut off her hands. (AP Photo/Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, File)
Brett Hartman
File, AP Photo/Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections

(AP) LUCASVILLE, Ohio -- Ohio prepared to execute a condemned killer Tuesday who claims he is innocent of stabbing a woman 138 times, slitting her throat and cutting off her hands.

Death row inmate Brett Hartman has acknowledged he had sex with Winda Snipes early on the morning of Sept. 9, 1997, at her Akron apartment. He also says he went back to Snipes' apartment later that day, found her mutilated body and panicked, trying to clean up the mess before calling 911.

But Hartman said he didn't kill her, a claim rejected by numerous courts over the years.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute appeal by Hartman on Monday. He had asked the high court in his appeal that he be allowed to renew arguments that his original attorneys did a bad job presenting evidence that could have led a jury to spare him.

Hartman would be the 49th inmate put to death since Ohio resumed executions in 1999.

Hartman slept for about three hours early Tuesday, spoke on the phone with a friend, then visited with an aunt, a sister and another friend Tuesday morning, said prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith. Hartman was calm and cooperative and speaking with the execution team, Smith said. He ate most of his last meal Monday, including steak, baked potato and fried shrimp, then declined breakfast Tuesday.

Prison staff checked Hartman's veins twice on Monday and determined they were accessible and shouldn't pose problems during the execution.

Hartman took two doses of an anti-anxiety drug Monday, which is offered to inmates under Department of Rehabilitation and Correction policy.

Hartman came within about a week of execution in 2009 before federal courts allowed him to pursue an innocence claim. When that claim failed, Hartman had a new date set last year, but that was postponed because of a federal lawsuit over Ohio's execution policy.

The Ohio Parole Board has unanimously denied Hartman's requests for clemency three times, citing the brutality of the Snipes' slaying and the "overwhelming evidence" of Hartman's guilt.

Hartman's attorneys have long said that crucial evidence from the crime scene and Snipes' body has never been tested, raising questions about Hartman's innocence. The evidence included fingerprints allegedly found on a clock and a mop handle. Hartman also argues the evidence could implicate an alternate suspect.

The attorneys argue that if Hartman's innocence claim is not accepted, he should still be spared because of the effects of a "remarkably chaotic and nomadic early childhood," including being abandoned by his mother and left with an aunt on an isolated Indian reservation.

His lawyers say Hartman's behavior in prison has been exemplary and shows he is a changed man. They cite his devotion to religious studies, his development as an artist and community service projects in prison.

The state opposes these arguments, citing the strength of the evidence and the fact that courts have repeatedly upheld Hartman's conviction and death sentence. The state also says Hartman refuses to take responsibility and show remorse.