UPDATE: Ohio Supreme Court hears appeal of Ashford Thompson April 8 in murder of Officer Joshua Miktarian

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UPDATE: Ohio Supreme Court hears appeal of Ashford Thompson April 8 in murder of Officer Joshua Miktarian

by Marc Kovac and Andrew Schunk | Capital Bureau Chief and Twinsburg Bulletin Editor Published: April 8, 2014 11:00AM

Columbus -- The Ohio Supreme Court heard an appeal April 8 from convicted murderer Ashford Lamar Thompson in the July 13, 2008, murder of Twinsburg Police Officer Joshua Miktarian, and much of the hour-long deliberations focused on whether Thompson acted under duress that night.

Thompson, 28, remains on death row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, more than five-and-a-half years after shooting and killing Miktarian, 33, following a late-night traffic stop at Thompson's Glenwood Drive home. An execution date has not yet been set.

The capital case was stayed by the state trial court Aug. 23, 2013, to await a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court, which heard Thompson's July 26, 2011, appeal of his death sentence at the Moyer Justice Center in Columbus.

Defense attorney Rachel Troutman argued that Thompson had no other convictions for violent crimes -- rather, he was a home health-care nurse and religious man who did not set out to murder anyone.

Thompson was afraid that the officer and a dog in the police car were going to harm him and panicked, Troutman said.

"Ashford Thompson made a very bad judgment call on July 13, 2008," she said. "... This was not a man who had been convicted of anything violent. He was deeply religious and he was young... He did not set out to kill someone that night."

She added later, "Who he was, the good person inside him, and everything he did before that horrible decision, makes him worthy of a life sentence."

Troutman also questioned the role of Thompson's race in the incident.

"Ashford Thompson was a 23-year-old black male, and he killed a white police officer," she said. "The thoughts that he had in his mind were because of the experiences that he has had. He was pulled over for a noise ordinance violation and ended up on the hood of a car with a handcuff on his wrist."

But Summit County assistant prosecutor Richard Kasay, representing the state, said justices must also weigh threatening statements Thompson allegedly made at a bar earlier the night of the crime.

"There was testimony... at 11:30 [p.m.] he's sitting at a bar drunk and makes a statement, I will kill if some m-f'er threatens me," Kasay said. "So this is his state of mind going into the ensuing hours."

He added later, "The argument is that this is a law-abiding, religious, mild-mannered nurse. And maybe before this night he was, but... there's evidence that what was going on in Mr. Thompson's psyche was not what others perceived...."

Justices questioned both attorneys about the duress issue.

"There's no question there was a struggle," said Justice William O'Neill. "There's no question that the police officer was threatening him with both weapons and a dog. And I'm just wondering how do we get past the subjective statement by the defendant that he thought the cop was taking him and he was in fear for his life?"

Kasay offered, "This court has defined duress in the context of the mitigating circumstance as something that a defendant is compelled or forced to do. So let's ask ourselves: What forced Ashford Thompson to shoot Officer Miktarian four times in the head?"

A ruling on the appeal could take weeks, according to the Ohio Supreme Court Clerk of Courts office.

Public defenders Kimberly Rigby and Robert Barnhart, also representing Thompson during the capital appeals process, cite 18 errors at the common pleas level.

Errors cited include violations of Thompson's due process by improperly excluding an African-American jurist during voir dire; a tainted jury pool due to outside-the-courtroom discussions of Thompson's initial guilty plea; various other violations of Thompson's due process, including excessive pre-trial publicity; and violations of his freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

The state filed a response brief Dec. 12, 2011, summarily rejecting each of the 18 counts and concluding that the death penalty, among others, must be affirmed by the high court.

Thompson's execution was initially scheduled for June 23, 2011, a year after his sentencing date. A stay of execution was granted by the Ohio Supreme Court Jan. 10, 2011, pending the final disposition of this initial, mandatory appeal.

Thompson was found guilty by a Summit County jury June 11, 2010, of two counts of aggravated murder, one count of escape, two counts of resisting arrest, three counts of tampering with evidence and one count of carrying a concealed weapon in the murder of the 11-year Twinsburg officer.

The death sentence was handed down by Summit Count Court of Common Pleas Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer June 23, 2010, and Thompson has been incarcerated in Chillicothe since June 25, 2010.

Miktarian, a 1993 graduate of Tallmadge High School, was shot four times in the head at close range in the driveway of Thompson's former Glenwood Drive home after stopping Thompson for loud music and suspicion of drunken driving just before 2 a.m. July 13, 2008.

Investigators believe Thompson, whose girlfriend was in the passenger seat of Thompson's parked vehicle, exited his car as Miktarian was re-approaching the vehicle (Miktarian had Thompson's insurance card and driver's license in his uniform breast pocket) after running Thompon's license plate.

There was no dash cam footage of the incident, as the tape in Miktarian's cruiser was full and a new tape was never inserted.

Witnesses reported hearing loud voices and then "popping sounds," and investigators believe some kind of scuffle occurred. Miktarian was found in the driveway and his unholstered and unused Taser was found nearby. The officer never unholstered his weapon, and never activated a remote that would have let Bagio, a police K-9, out of Miktarian's cruiser.

Thompson, an LPN who possessed a concealed carry permit at the time, was arrested less than an hour later at a Bedford Heights residence (following a struggle with police) with a set of Miktarian's handcuffs still attached to one of his wrists.

Miktarian was the first Twinsburg Police Department officer to be killed in the line of duty.

Email: aschunk@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9424

Twitter: @twinsburgohio

 

 

OHIO SUPREME COURT TO HEAR APPEAL OF ASHFORD THOMPSON APRIL 8 IN MURDER OF OFFICER JOSHUA MIKTARIAN

by Andrew Schunk | Twinsburg Bulletin Editor

The Ohio Supreme Court will hear an appeal April 8 from convicted murderer Ashford Lamar Thompson, sentenced to death for killing Twinsburg Police Officer Joshua Miktarian July 13, 2008.

Thompson, 28, remains on death row in Chillicothe more than five-and-a-half years after shooting and killing Miktarian, 33, following a late night traffic stop at Thompson's Glenwood Drive home. An execution date has not yet been set.

The capital case was stayed by the state trial court Aug. 23, 2013, to await a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court, which will hear Thompson's July 26, 2011, appeal of his death sentence April 8. A ruling on the appeal could take weeks or months.

Public defenders Kimberly Rigby, Rachel Troutman and Robert Barnhart, representing Thompson during the capital appeals process, cite 18 errors at the common pleas level in their July 26, 2011, appeal.

Some of the arguments include:

— "The defendant's right to due process, equal protection, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment is violated when the State excludes an African-American juror without providing a satisfactory race-neutral reason;" (2) Thompson is African-American.

— "The defendant's rights to a fair trial, impartial jury, due process and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment are violated when the trial court refuses to allow counsel to question jurors who are hesitant about imposing the death penalty and applies the wrong standard in deciding whether to exclude jurors for cause;" (4) and

— "Thompson's sentence of death is inappropriate. The circumstances of the offense, his good character, the love and support of his family, and the ability to successfully adjust to a prison sentence all favor a life sentence. Moreover, Thompson's death sentence is not proportionate when compared to other similar offenses." (17)

Summit County prosecutors will represent the state at the hearing, which will be at the University of Toledo College of Law.

Thompson's execution was initially scheduled for June 23, 2011, a year from his sentencing date. He appealed the death sentence Aug. 6, 2010, to the Ohio Supreme Court. A stay of execution was granted by the Ohio Supreme Court Jan. 10, 2011, pending the final disposition of Thompson's initial, mandatory appeal, which the state's high court will hear April 8.

Thompson was found guilty by a Summit County jury June 11, 2010, of two counts of aggravated murder, one count of escape, two counts of resisting arrest, three counts of tampering with evidence and one count of carrying a concealed weapon in the murder of the 11-year Twinsburg officer.

The death sentence was handed down by Summit Count Court of Common Pleas Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer June 23, 2010, and Thompson has been incarcerated in Chillicothe Correctional Institute since June 25, 2010.

The appeals remaining for Thompson include requesting a review of the trial from the State Court of Appeals and requesting a writ of Habeas Corpus from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Miktarian, a 1993 graduate of Tallmadge High School, was shot four times in the head at close range in the driveway of Thompson's former Glenwood Drive home after stopping Thompson for loud music and suspicion of drunk driving just before 2 a.m. July 13, 2008.

Investigators believe Thompson, whose girlfriend was in the passenger seat of Thompson's parked vehicle, exited his car as Miktarian was re-approaching the vehicle (Miktarian had Thompson's insurance card in his uniform breast pocket) after running Thompon's license plate, "INTL."

Witnesses reported hearing loud voices and then "popping sounds," and investigators believe some kind of scuffle occurred. Miktarian was found in the driveway and his unholstered and unused Taser was found nearby. The officer never unholstered his weapon.

Miktarian was the first officer in the history of the Twinsburg Police Department to be killed in the line of duty.

Thompson, a nurse who possessed a concealed carry permit at the time, was arrested less than an hour later at a Bedford Heights residence with a set of Miktarian's handcuffs still attached to one of his wrists.

Email: aschunk@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9424

Twitter: @twinsburgohio

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