On October 13, the United States Supreme Court will hear, for the second time, oral arguments concerning the case of death row inmate Frank Spisak.
On October 15 from 3-4 p.m., Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray will discuss Smith v. Spisak during a free public event at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, located at the corner of East 18th Street and Euclid Avenue.
The case, Smith v. Spisak, has special resonance in Cleveland and at Cleveland State University. In 1983, a Cuyahoga County jury convicted and sentenced to death self-proclaimed neo-Nazi Frank Spisak for the murders in 1982 of three men at Cleveland State: the Reverend Horace Rickerson, CSU student Brian Warford, and CSU administrator Timothy Sheehan. Sheehan was the father of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Brendan Sheehan, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Class of 1993.
The Cleveland-Marshall chapter of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy is sponsoring the event.
Following his conviction, Mr. Spisak filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the District Court, which upheld the lower court. In 2006, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the trial judge’s instructions to the jury were unconstitutional and that Mr. Spisak’s attorney during the sentencing phase of the trial was ineffective. The Court set aside the conviction and ordered a new hearing.
In October 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6 to 3 decision, reinstated the death sentence and sent it back to the Circuit Court for review. Three months later, the Sixth Circuit reached the same conclusion that it had on the first appeal and again threw out Spisak’s death sentence. The state attorney general appealed and filed a second petition for certiorari, which the Supreme Court granted in February 2009.
The question the state will pose this time is whether the Sixth Circuit disobeyed the directives of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and ignored a relevant Supreme Court's decision in an earlier case. The Court will also consider whether the Appeals Court incorrectly presumed prejudice and whether it failed to consider the Ohio Supreme Court’s standards for determining prejudice.
Attorney General Cordray will speak for 45 minutes and accept questions afterwards. For more information, call 216.687.6886 or visit www.law.csuohio.edu.
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