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Ohio Supreme Court Sets Another Execution Date Despite Unofficial Pause

Larry Greene, public information director of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, demonstrates how a curtain is pulled between the death chamber and witness room at the prison in Lucasville, Ohio.
Larry Greene, public information director of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, demonstrates how a curtain is pulled between the death chamber and witness room at the prison in Lucasville, Ohio.

The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday set a 2025 execution date for a man convicted of killing a police informant 25 years ago to keep her from testifying against him in a drug case.

The court's decision in the case of death row inmate Timothy Coleman comes even as an unofficial execution moratorium continues in Ohio, which has been unable to find needed lethal drugs. It's the second time this month the court has set an execution date despite the moratorium.

The court sided with the Clark County prosecutor, which requested an execution date with all of Coleman's state and federal appeals ended. The court scheduled the execution for Oct. 30, 2025.

Coleman, 52, was convicted of the 1996 fatal shooting of Melinda Stevens, a confidential informant for the Springfield police department. Prosecutors alleged Coleman acknowledged his crime to different people he was housed with in jail and prison following his arrest.

Coleman's attorneys opposed the request, arguing that Coleman was unfairly targeted as a Black man by overzealous prosecutors during the 1990s war on drugs. They say another man, who is white, has confessed to the crime and that that man's claims have never been investigated.

That alternate suspect's “status as a criminal who supposedly tells a lot of lies evidently makes his evidence unworthy of the courts’ time and attention,” Timothy Sweeney, an attorney for Coleman, said in a June filing. “But courts must take witnesses as they find them, and must at least try to be consistent and fair.”

Coleman's lawyers also say there were many other suspects because of Steven's informant activities.

One of the court's justices, Michael Donnelly, said he was troubled by the fact Coleman's innocence claims haven't been heard. But he voted in favor of setting the execution date, acknowledging that the only matter before the court was whether Coleman had exhausted his appeals.

Earlier this month, the court set a July 2025 execution date for Samuel Moreland, who killed five people, including three children, in Dayton in 1985.

It's unclear when, if ever, Ohio will carry out another execution. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said last year that because of Ohio's difficulty finding drugs for executions, lethal injection is no longer an option, and lawmakers must choose a different method of capital punishment before any inmates can be put to death.

Pending bipartisan bills in the House and Senate would eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life without the possibility of parole. Although such bills have been introduced multiple times over the years, more Republicans are signing on, citing the cost to taxpayers of lengthy appeals, the state's ability to find lethal drugs, and the concern that an innocent person could be executed.

House Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Jeffrey LaRue isn't ruling out the possibility that the House bill could be approved by his committee.

“I’ll just be interested to hear the arguments on both sides of where folks stand on that issue,” LaRue, a central Ohio Republican, told Gongwer News Service.

The state’s last execution was July 18, 2018, when Ohio put to death Robert Van Hook for killing David Self in Cincinnati in 1985.