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Maurice A. Mason - Ohio
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Thread: Maurice A. Mason - Ohio

  1. #1
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    Oct 2010

    Maurice A. Mason - Ohio

    Summary of Offense:

    On February 8, 1993, Mason murdered 19-year-old Robin Dennis inside an abandoned building in a rural area near Pole Lane Road. Ms. Dennis had given Mason a ride to his house because her husband planned to trade his gun for Mason's television. Mason raped Ms. Dennis, pistol-whipped her with her husband's gun and struck her eight times in the head with a board that had nails protruding from it. DNA testing matched Mason's DNA with the semen in Ms. Dennis' vagina.

  2. #2
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    October 3, 2008

    Appeals court tosses death sentence for Ohio man

    A federal appeals court on Friday threw out the death sentence of a man convicted of beating and raping a woman and dumping her body in an abandoned building in 1993.

    A 3-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a split-decision in the case of Maurice Mason.

    The panel by a 2-1 vote held that Mason had poor legal help in the sentencing portion of his 1994 trial in Marion County in the death of Robin Dennis, 19, of Essex.

    The appeals court said Mason's lawyers failed to interview his family and investigate "the obvious red flags" in state records suggesting that Mason's childhood was pervaded by violence and exposure to drugs in the home from an early age.

    Prosecutors have six months to hold a new sentencing hearing, the court said.

    The state will review the decision and consider its options, which include asking for a review by the full court, said Jim Gravelle, a spokesman for the Ohio attorney general's office.

    David Stebbins, who represented Mason on appeal, praised the ruling.

    "Obviously we have been litigating this for a long time," he said. "Trial counsel had simply not done an investigation into his background and his entire childhood was not presented."

    Stebbins said Mason's parents were drug dealers who sold drugs out of their home, Mason's father ran a prostitution ring and there was violence in the house - with Mason's mother once shooting his father in front of their children.

    Judge Karen Nelson Moore, joined by Judge Eric Clay, delivered the 6th Circuit opinion that reversed a 2005 federal district court decision denying Mason's petition.

    Chief Judge Danny Boggs dissented, writing that the opinion "sets an almost impossibly high bar for defense counsel in capital cases."

    Dennis' body was found inside an abandoned building in rural Marion County on Feb. 13, 1993. An autopsy concluded that she was struck in the head and her skull was fractured. Mason was convicted June 18, 1994, in Marion County Common Pleas Court of rape and aggravated murder with a death penalty specification that the murder occurred during the commission of a rape.

    (Source: The Associated Press)

  3. #3
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    County faces big bill with death penalty cases

    MARION - It's been almost a decade since a murder case with a death specification went before a jury in Marion County.

    Four pending cases could send three men and a woman to death row, costing hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars.

    Not since Barry Satta was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a 7-year-old girl in 2001 has a Marion County jury considered a death sentence.

    Prosecutors and defense attorneys reached a plea agreement that led to Juan Cruz being sentenced to life in prison for murdering deputy Brandy Winfield. Cruz had been indicted with a death specification.

    Now Maurice Mason, 47, Lee Crager, 40, Marlin Stone, 22, and Vanessa Manley, 21, each could be placed on death row by a Marion County jury.

    For Mason, only the death penalty phase of his trial remains. His conviction for the rape and murder of a 19-year-old woman in 1993 stands.

    A higher court overturned his death sentence because an inadequate life history was presented during the mitigation phase of the case, and it was sent back for resentencing, said one of his attorneys, Todd Anderson.

    Anderson also serves as co-counsel on two of the other cases, Crager and Stone.

    Crager's aggravated murder conviction has been sent back for retrial. He was re-indicted on the murder charge, attempted rape and burglary, when he allegedly beat a 70-year-old woman to death in her home. His first indictment did not include a death specification. It was added as part of the re-indictment with other new charges.

    Stone and Manley are accused of robbing and killing a 66-year-old man in his home.

    The costs of prosecuting and defending a case involving a death specification can be measured in fees, hours of the court staff, judges, attorneys, investigators, jurors and other parties involved, paperwork filed, and jail and prison costs of housing defendants.

    Costs calculated by the Marion County Clerk of Courts for Satta's case totaled more than $84,000 in court-appointed attorney fees, almost $13,000 in court reporter fees and almost $7,000 in jury fees.

    Mason's criminal case, when costs were last calculated, has cost almost $50,000 at the county level. That does not include appeals and the possible second death penalty phase of the case.

    The death sentence of Kevin Keith, 46, a Crawford County man convicted of murdering two women and a girl and wounding three other people in 1994, was commuted by Gov. Ted Strickland in September, two weeks before Keith was supposed to be executed.

    The criminal prosecution alone cost $123,089.49, according to court records. Now the state will bear the cost of housing Keith for the rest of his life.

    In Franklin County, which includes Columbus, no death sentence has been imposed since 2003, Anderson said, a glaring figure in light of the county's population and murder figures. Only one case with a possible death sentence is pending there.

    Other counties with large populations such as Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Summit, Mahoning and Stark, have higher instances of death specifications.

    With the workload of four cases that could end with death sentences, not a week goes by that Marion prosecutors don't spend time on at least one of the cases, said county prosecutor Brent Yager.

    If he doesn't work on Mason's case, he can't help but think about it.

    "And we're in the early stages of Manley and Stone. We're still waiting on DNA results and forensic evidence," he said. "The problem there is we can't not charge people, knowing, believing they committed murders."

    So as evidence is processed, motions are filed and hearings are held, what will happen with the lives of Mason, Crager, Manley and Stone remains undetermined, and the family members of the defendants and victims await closure.


  4. #4
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    On September 28, 2011, the State of Ohio filed an appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit sitting (I presume) en banc over a Sixth Circuit panel's 2-1 decision granting Mason's habeas petition.


  5. #5
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Today the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled that Mason's penalty-phase retrial must begin within 180 days or else the State of Ohio will be precluded from seeking a death sentence.


  6. #6
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Maurice Mason v. Betty Mitchell

    Court: Ohio can seek death penalty in 1993 murder

    Prosecutors can again seek the death penalty against a man convicted of raping and fatally beating a 19-year-old woman in 1993 and dumping her body in an abandoned building, a federal appeals panel ruled Wednesday.

    Maurice Mason, 49, had argued that prosecutors shouldn't be allowed to seek the death penalty against him because they missed a filing deadline after an appeals court threw out his death sentence in 2008. He also said that doing so would amount to double jeopardy.

    A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with him Wednesday, finding that although prosecutors did miss a six-month deadline to pursue a death sentence against Mason, doing so was not enough to preclude them from starting the process again.

    The panel also rejected Mason's double-jeopardy argument, saying there had been no finding that the prosecution had failed to prove its case at trial.

    Mason's Columbus attorney, Kort Gatterdam, said he's weighing whether to ask the panel to reconsider its decision, ask the full 6th Circuit to hear the case or appeal the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    "It's the difference between life and death," he said. "The death penalty has to be off the table, otherwise court orders can sort of be ignored at will."

    On Feb. 13, 1993, 19-year-old Robin Dennis' mostly nude body was found inside an abandoned building in rural Marion County. She had been beaten with a nail-covered board, had multiple skull fractures and semen was found in her vagina that forensic analysts said at trial matched Mason.

    Gatterdam is seeking to obtain the DNA in the case for retesting.

    He said although his client knew Dennis, who was married, he always has maintained his innocence.

    "Obviously he's anxious," Gatterdam said of Mason. "He's facing the prospect of the death penalty and now it's getting closer to being a reality so I'm sure he'll continue to be anxious. But we're going to fight to prove he's innocent."

    The appeals panel gave prosecutors a new six-month deadline to pursue the death penalty against Mason, who is being housed at Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe, about 45 miles south of Columbus.

    Marion County Prosecutor Brent Yader did not immediately return a call seeking comment about if and when his office will start the process of trying to get Mason sentenced to death, which would include seating a jury to decide Mason's fate.

    Dan Tierney, a spokesman with the Ohio attorney general's office, which argued the case in front of the appeals panel, said that the agency is pleased with the decision but declined to comment further.

    In a split decision, the same panel of the 6th Circuit threw out Mason's death sentence in 2008, ruling 2-1 that he had poor legal help during the sentencing phase of his 1994 trial.

    The majority opinion said Mason's lawyers failed to interview his family and investigate "the obvious red flags" in state records suggesting that Mason's childhood was pervaded by violence and exposure to drugs in the home.

    Such evidence can be used as mitigating factors and can win a defendant a reduced sentence.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  7. #7
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    In today's United States Supreme Court orders, Mason's petition for writ of certiorari was DENIED.

    Lower Ct: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
    Case Nos.: (11-4020)
    Decision Date: September 4, 2013
    Rehearing Denied: October 9, 2013


  8. #8
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Death penalty denied in 1993 rape, murder

    By Spenser Hickey
    The Marion Star

    MARION - Maurice Mason's fate has been in limbo for more than 20 years after he was initially sentenced to death for the 1993 rape and murder of 19-year-old Robin Dennis.

    In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a further appeal involving the case, but on Monday, Marion County Common Pleas Judge William Finnegan ruled in favor of a defense motion that a January Supreme Court ruling, Hurst v. Florida, should be applied to this case and remove the death penalty on constitutional grounds.

    Since the June 1994 conviction and subsequent sentence, the case has repeatedly been moved between state and federal courts through the appeals process. In 2008 the death penalty was removed from the case, and then in 2013 it was decided the state could try to have it re-applied, though that process is scheduled for November.

    In his decision, Finnegan found that both Ohio and Florida had a "hybrid system" of death penalty sentencing in which the jury makes an advisory verdict but the judge makes the final decision, and that Ohio's capital sentencing law at the time of the 1994 verdict was unconstitutional.

    Marion County Prosecutor Brent Yager vowed to appeal Finnegan's decision to the Ohio 3rd Court of Appeals and continue to seek the death penalty, though Yager waited until Friday to make a statement as he wanted to speak with Dennis' family first.

    "My office will continue work tirelessly to ensure that justice is served for the victim and her family," Yager said in a news release. He disagreed with Finnegan's ruling, saying juries are the ones who apply the death penalty and consider relevant factors under Ohio law, and said it could have far reaching effects beyond this case.

    "This case right now is saying our death penalty is unconstitutional, it could have ramifications across the state," Yager said. "It needs to be looked at and decided, it could be this ultimately ends up in the U.S. Supreme Court somewhere down the road."

    Dennis, a resident of Essex, went missing on Feb. 9, 1993 and her vehicle was found in Marion County the following day. On Feb. 13, her body was found in a nearby abandoned building, and Mason was the last person she had been seen with.

    Her body was mostly nude when found and had multiple skull fractures from being beaten with a nail-covered board. DNA evidence from semen further linked Mason, then 29, to the crime, and he was found guilty of aggravated murder, rape and possession of weapons under disability for possessing a firearm as well. After his June 1994 conviction, Mason was sentenced to death.

    However in the 2008 appeal that removed it, the defense successfully argued that Mason had poor legal representation during the 1994 sentencing, as his attorneys failed to identify and present potential mitigating factors that could have reduced his sentence.

    Mason's appeals attorneys argued that he grew up in a home where drugs were dealt by both parents, that his father ran a prostitution ring and that his mother later shot his father in front of him, all during his childhood.

    Before Finnegan's ruling, the re-sentencing was scheduled to begin on Nov. 16.


  9. #9
    Senior Member Member
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    Sep 2015
    Death penalty back in play in 1993 Marion County murder case

    Maurice Mason's fight to escape his date with death has lasted four years longer than the life of the 19-year-old pregnant woman he beat to death with a nail-studded board in Marion County.

    Mason raped and murdered Robin Dennis in 1993. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1994. Execution of that sentence, though, was on hold while prosecutors challenged several Mason appeals.

    Now, 22 years later, an Ohio appeals court has ruled that the original death penalty must be considered in the decades-old crime.

    "It's ridiculous," Ted Travis, Davis' father, said of the lengthy appeal process.

    Ohio's Third District Appeals Court, in a Tuesday ruling, reversed the earlier decision that eliminated Mason's death sentence.

    That means Mason's case will go back to Marion County Common Pleas Court, where a new sentencing hearing will be held and he again could be sentenced to death.

    But Kort Gatterdam, Mason's court-appointed attorney, said that won't happen any time soon because he will appeal Tuesday's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

    "We're not done," Gotterdam said. "Don't we want to get it right?"

    An imperiled life like Mason's, Gotterdam said, is more important than a rush to judgment.

    "If the folks are angered by the length of time," Gotterdam said, "you could just get rid of the death penalty."

    That, Marion County Prosecutor Brent Yager countered, is exactly the goal in cases such as Mason's.

    "This is a battle over the death penalty," Yager, who starts his ninth year as county prosecutor next month, said Wednesday. "There is a big push to eliminate the death penalty."

    Mason, now 52 and inmate A296867 in the Allen Correctional Institution, admitted to having consensual sex with Davis, but denied killing her.

    Travis, who now lives in Marysville, just wants it over.

    "At this point, I just want to see it end one way or the other," Travis said. "My sense is that while the legal wrangling goes on, this case doesn't even have anything really to do with Mason anymore, and it sure doesn't have anything to do with my daughter."

    Parts of Mason's case already have been heard by county, state and federal courts in addition to the Ohio Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.


  10. #10
    Senior Member CnCP Legend CharlesMartel's Avatar
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    Apr 2014
    Ohio Supreme Court will hear appeal of local death penalty case

    By Sarah Volpenhein
    The Marion Star

    MARION - The Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments later this month on the constitutionality of a death sentence for a man convicted in Marion County of the 1993 rape and murder of a 19-year-old woman.

    Maurice A. Mason, 54, was initially sentenced to death in 1994 after a jury found him guilty of aggravated murder, rape and having a weapon while under disability in Marion County Common Pleas Court.

    Mason's attorneys have asked the Ohio Supreme Court to bar the state from pursuing the death penalty in Mason's case, arguing that a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Florida case makes Mason's death sentence unconstitutional.

    Mason's legal team has argued that Ohio's death penalty sentencing statutes are very similar to Florida's death penalty sentencing statutes, which the U.S. Supreme Court found to be unconstitutional in Hurst v. Florida, according to records filed in Ohio Supreme Court.

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that Florida's capital sentencing scheme violated the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury by requiring the judge — rather than the jury — to make the findings necessary to impose the death penalty, according to the court's opinion.

    Mason's attorneys have argued that an Ohio jury only makes a recommendation on whether to impose the death penalty and that the ultimate decision is up to the judge, thereby violating the Marion resident's Sixth Amendment rights.

    "We think that flies contrary to what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hurst," said Todd Anderson, a Marion-based attorney representing Mason.

    However, the state argues that Ohio's capital sentencing statutes comply with the U.S. Constitution and differ significantly from Florida's.

    In a brief filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, the state argued that Ohio law differs from Florida's partly because the jury is required to find beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a specific aggravating factor to the offense, one that makes the defendant eligible for the death penalty.

    In Mason's case, he was eligible for the death penalty because the murder occurred during the commission of rape.

    Nineteen-year-old Robin Dennis, a resident of Essex, a small Union County community, went missing on Feb. 9, 1993, the Star has reported. Her vehicle was found in rural Marion County the next day, and her body was found in an abandoned building a few days later.

    Dennis was found mostly nude, with multiple skull fractures from being beaten with a nail-covered board. DNA evidence from semen further linked Mason, then 29, to the crime, the Star reported.

    This most recent appeal is not the first challenge to Mason's death sentence. Since his 1994 conviction, his case has wended through state and federal courts on various appeals.

    In 2008, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court threw out Mason's death sentence, ruling 2-1 that his legal team had made serious mistakes during the sentencing phase of his 1994 trial.

    In the majority opinion, 6th Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote that Mason’s lawyers had failed to investigate “the obvious red flags” that Mason’s childhood was “pervaded by violence and exposure to drugs.”

    Such evidence can be used during sentencing to win the defendant a lighter sentence.

    Nelson Moore wrote that if Mason’s lawyers had done a more thorough investigation into Mason’s background, there was a reasonable chance the jury would not have sentenced him to death.

    She pointed to evidence that Mason’s father ran a prostitution ring for three years, as well as a home-based drug dealing operation; that both his parents were daily drug users and that Mason had witnessed his mother shoot his father.

    The 6th Circuit Court sent the case back to Marion County Common Pleas Court for Mason to be re-sentenced.

    Mason was on track to be re-sentenced in late 2016, but those proceedings were put on hold because of the appeal to have the death penalty piece of the case thrown out based on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Hurst v. Florida.

    Oral arguments before the Ohio Supreme Court in that matter are set for Jan. 23.

    Mason is being held in the North Central Correctional Institution in Marion.


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