Judge halts Ohio execution; prosecutors appeal

By Kantele Franko

Associated Press

Published: Monday, May 16 2011 8:13 p.m. MDT

This undated photo released by the Ohio Department of Corrections shows death row inmate Daniel Bedford. Bedford is scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday, May 17, 2011 for killing 25-year-old Gwen Toepfert and 27-year-old John Smith in April 1984. (AP Photo/Ohio Department of Corrections)

Associated Press

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Prosecutors appealed a federal judge's decision Monday to halt the Ohio execution of a man who was convicted in the 1984 shootings of his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend but has said he doesn't remember the slayings.

Daniel Lee Bedford, 63, was scheduled to be put to death Tuesday. His attorneys had sought a stay of execution to allow more time for the courts to consider issues they raised, and U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley in Columbus granted the request.

Defense attorneys had argued Bedford has dementia and a mild mental disability that keep him from fully understanding the meaning and purpose of his death sentence. They also said Ohio courts unreasonably applied established law and denied Bedford legal proceedings to which he is constitutionally entitled.

Erin Barnhart of the federal public defender's office in Columbus said Bedford's defense team was pleased with the federal judge's decision. She said it was primarily about the procedural claim.

Prosecutors appealed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Bedford was sentenced to death after confessing to authorities that he gunned down Gwen Toepfert, 25, and John Smith, 27, at the Cincinnati apartment Toepfert shared with a roommate, who witnessed some of the violence but was not killed.

Bedford learned from the roommate that the couple was home and waited at the apartment where, armed with a revolver and a shotgun, he killed Smith and shot Toepfert multiple times before returning to her body and firing a shotgun blast into her groin to be sure she was dead, prosecutors said. He then went to Tennessee and visited a childhood acquaintance, who helped tip off police before Bedford's arrest.

Bedford told the state parole board in March that he doesn't remember the slayings but that his attorneys have told him details and he's "sorry it happened."

"Killing me won't bring them back, but if it has to be done, it has to be done," he said, according to the board's report.

During the interview, he said he recalled some details of his life but had trouble with others. He remembered getting married at age 16, having six children, working for Toepfert's father and recently visiting with his daughter and granddaughter. But he said he didn't remember meeting Smith or being upset with Toepfert, and he had trouble thinking of the names of the attorneys who helped him during the clemency process.

The parole board last month unanimously recommended that Gov. John Kasich deny clemency, and he did.

The Ohio Supreme Court had rejected defense attorneys' arguments about Bedford's mental state and refused to block the execution.

Relatives of Toepfert and Smith have supported the death sentence, saying they believe the killings were merciless and Bedford knew what he was doing.

Bedford spent Monday playing cards on a bed in his cell and seeing several visitors, including his daughter, a spiritual adviser from the corrections department and a pen pal who has kept in touch with Bedford since 1995.

His only request for his special dinner was a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola or something similar. He was slated to get the standard prison dinner, which included tuna salad or vegetarian stir fry, oven-browned potatoes, greens, coleslaw, fruit and bread.

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