COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio prisoner on death row who was slated to be executed today chose instead to hang himself in his cell, ruining all the hard work prosecutors and the correctional system devoted to seeing him put to death by lethal injection.
Billy Slagle, 44, who had been found guilty of murdering Mari Ann Pope during a botched robbery in 1987, was found dead by members of the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, who took the death hard. “It’s a real tragedy,” said Dennis Tate, a guard on Slagle’s cellblock. “He knew how much I was looking forward to leading him away to his state-sanctioned murder. It was going to be my first one, too. And then he goes and pulls a selfish stunt like this.”
“Makes you wonder what’s going through some people’s heads,” he added.
In a rare move, both defense attorneys and the prosecutor in the case lobbied for Slagle’s sentence to be commuted to life without the possibility of parole due to recognition of the trauma Slagle suffered during a troubled childhood, which was rife with drug and alcohol addiction. According to Francis Figoski of the Ohio Parole Board, although the appeals were denied, this was not the end anyone wanted. “You hate to see someone die like that – in a total amateur job. That’s why we have professionals. I guess Mr. Slagle just couldn’t see that. It’s a real pity; he had the rest of his life in front of him. Like eight or nine whole hours.”
The impact of Slagle’s suicide is not only felt by those denied the opportunity to take his life from him, but by Ohio taxpayers. “Between jailing, convicting, appeals, and housing, a death row inmate costs the people of Ohio over $1 million dollars a year,” said Governor John Kasich. “For that kind of scratch, we want a return on our investment. The people paid for an execution. Instead they got a suicide. Total rip-off.”
“And I was really looking forward to getting that last ditch midnight phone call,” continued Kasich. “It’s one of the perks of this job.”
Kasich expressed his condolences to the prison guards, chaplain, and administering doctor who were denied their chance to participate in this particular American jurisprudential money shot.