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The Suburbanite
  • Attorneys: 'Mercy killing' no defense for hospital shooter

  • A fatal shooting at an Akron hospital last weekend has been described by police as a possible mercy killing, but it appears unlikely that motive will constitute the legal defense for 66-year-old John Wise of Massillon.

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  • A fatal shooting at an Akron hospital last weekend has been described by police as a possible mercy killing, but it appears unlikely that motive will constitute the legal defense for 66-year-old John Wise of Massillon.
    Akron police say Wise calmly walked into his wife’s room a week ago at Akron General Medical Center and shot her at least once in the head.
    Barbara Wise, 65, who was hospitalized in the intensive care unit July 28 after reportedly suffering triple cerebral aneurysms at the couple’s Hawthorne Avenue NE residence, died Sunday morning. The couple had been married for 45 years.    
    John Wise is charged with aggravated murder — which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole — in connection with his wife’s death. He is being held at the Summit County Jail on a $1 million, 10 percent cash bond. The case is expected to be reviewed by a Summit County grand jury later this month.
    Defense attorney Jeff Jakmides brushed aside the idea that the shooting was an act of mercy and said he believes prosecutors filed the appropriate charge in the case.
    “There’s no such thing (as mercy killing) in the state of Ohio. Period,” Jakmides said. “It seems as clear as day to me. They can try to put whatever spin they want on it. You don’t get to go decide when to end someone’s life.”
    Under state law, the aggravated murder charge alleges that John Wise acted with “prior calculation and design.”
    “He took a taxi cab to the hospital and had a loaded gun. Obviously, he planned to do it ... You can’t take the law into your own hands and kill someone,” Jakmides said.
    Attorneys Michael Boske and Frank Beane each said they were not aware of any cases in which the mercy killing motive has been used as a defense.
    Boske noted jurors are instructed not to make decisions based on sympathy.
    “(Mercy killing) would almost be a nullification. We’re not allowed to argue to jurors to disregard the law,” Boske said.
    There is no jury nullification law on the books in Ohio. In June, New Hampshire lawmakers passed House Bill 146, which offers juries a mechanism to “override” the decisions of judges and gives panels the ability “to judge the application of the law in relationship to the facts in controversy.”
    If Wise is convicted, the judge would be required to abide by mandatory, minimum sentencing guidelines established by state legislators, Boske said. The lesser charge of murder carries a life sentence with parole eligibility in 15 years.
    “(Sentencing guidelines) really handcuff the jurists and the judge,” Boske said. “... I think a case like this demonstrates that legislators shouldn’t be deciding mandatory sentences in a case. That’s why judges are elected.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Although the grand jury could indict Wise on the lesser charge of murder, it doesn’t appear that voluntary manslaughter could be applied to the case because his actions would have required provocation from the victim, according to attorney Frank Beane.
    “The only other defense is temporary insanity, but he left Massillon with a gun and went all the way to Akron,” Beane said. That would seem to indicate Wise had a plan and carried it out, nullifying the insanity defense.