September 13, 2017 was to have been Jeffrey Wogenstahl’s day of execution. Following a rescheduling, the date has been reallocated to Gary Otte.[i]
Otte differs from Jeff in having no claim of innocence. Nonetheless, Otte’s case highlights many concerns about the process of justice, e.g.:
-Otte was persuaded by his attorneys to opt for a 3-judge trial, rather than a jury trial.
-He was heavily medicated during his trial, and unable to understand what was happening.
-Mitigating factors in his case (the extensive bullying that he suffered as a child, and his depression linked to substance abuse) were not fully and effectively presented in court.
-He was only 20 years old when he committed his crimes.
Otte’s father feels that an adequate trial could have helped the families of the two victims:
“I understand the anger that the victims’ families feel. But just maybe if there had been a jury trial it could have helped all the families understand why it happened and feel a better sense of closure. They would have gotten a lot more information about the cause and effect of the crime.
If Otte is killed on Wednesday, the family and friends of the victims are unlikely to derive the peace they hope for.[ii] Nor will his execution prevent a similar crime happening: but better support for bullied children and troubled young people might do so.
On the other hand, many new victims will emerge as a result of Otte’s execution. His family members have begged for clemency, noting that his execution will cause them overwhelming suffering. Gary’s mother says,
“Gary’s execution would devastate our family. It would leave a void in our life that would be impossible to fill.”
and his sister echoes this:
“Executing my brother would be extremely hard for me and my family. We all love Gary and don’t want to lose him. I am very worried about my parents and how they will handle this. I am very worried about my dad due to heart problems.”
We leave the final word to Marietta Jaeger-Lane, whose 7 year-old daughter, Susie, was murdered in 1973; she writes eloquently about why state-sanctioned murder must end:
“Loved ones, wrenched from our lives by violent crime, deserve more beautiful, noble and honourable memorials than pre-meditated, state-sanctioned killings. The death penalty only creates more victims and more grieving families. By becoming that which we deplore – people who kill people – we insult the sacred memory of all our precious victims.”
For information about how to ask Ohio Governor Kasich to rethink clemency for Gary Otte, please read the Amnesty International USA Urgent Action information sheet.
Update: Employees of the State of Ohio killed Gary Otte on September 13, 2017.
[i] Most of the information for this post is taken from the minutes of the Parole Board meeting, Re Gary Otte, CCI #A264-667, held February 2, 2017.
[ii] See, for instance, the experience of families of victims of the Oklahoma City bombing: “Six months after the bombing a poll taken in Oklahoma City of victims’ families and survivors showed that 85 per cent wanted the death penalty for Tim McVeigh. Six years later that figure had dropped to nearly half, and now most of those who supported his execution have come to believe it was a mistake. In other words, they didn’t feel any better after Tim McVeigh was taken from his cell and killed.”