Anthony Kirkland was sentenced to death for the 2006 murder of 14-year-old Casonya Crawford and the 2009 murder of 13-year-old Esme Kenney, but now he has a second chance at life, due to a comment made during his previous trial. Kirkland now faces a new sentencing phase in the Hamilton County, Ohio Common Pleas Court, where a jury will determine whether he should get the death penalty or life in prison.
Kirkland was apprehended after Kenney’s 2009 death. Police found that she had been raped, strangled, and set on fire. Police found him near the site where her body was found, with her iPod and watch, and he confessed to killing her, Crawford, and the 2006 killings of Mary Jo Newton, 45, and Kimya Rolison, 25.
A jury convicted Kirkland for the Kenney and Crawford murders in 2010, but a close 4-3 vote in the Ohio Supreme Court determined that a remark made by a prosecutor during the sentencing phase was improper. Kirkland was already set to spend the rest of his life in prison for the two other murders (he also previously served 16 years for murdering and burning his girlfriend in 1987), and prosecutor Joe Deters told the jury that unless they voted for the death penalty, the Kenney and Crawfor murders would be “just freebies” for Kirkland.
Casonya Crawford’s grandmother, Patricia Crawford, didn’t understand why this warranted a second chance for her granddaughter’s killer.
“You done killed before and you’ll kill again, but you have rights? Something I’m misunderstanding,” she told local WCPO, “because I thought when you committed these crimes all rights were off.”
Deters thought the decision to hold a new sentencing hearing was “nonsense,” saying that “if the death penalty is not applicable to Anthony Kirkland, I don’t know who the person would be that should get it.”
On Monday, Judge Patrick Dinkelaker threatened to keep Kirkland in restraints while in court, due to an alleged incident in jail that morning. Kirkland told the judge he did not initiate the situation.
[Image via WLWT screengrab]