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Triple Homicide Trial: Sentencing Phase Day 1

Sandusky Register Staff • Nov 12, 2013 at 5:34 PM

UPDATE 3:27 p.m. — The jury recommended Curtis Clinton be sentenced to death, for each of the deaths of Heather Jackson, 23, and her children, Celina, 3, and Wayne Jr., 20 months.

Erie County Common Pleas Judge Tygh Tone set a sentencing hearing for Nov. 14, where he'll hand down Clinton's final sentence. Tone could take the jury's recommendation for the death penalty, or he could sentence Clinton to life in prison without parole.

UPDATE 11:29 a.m. — Serial killer Curtis Clinton, 42, took the stand in his own defense Tuesday morning, claiming his innocence and pleading with jurors to spare his life.

For an hour and a half, he shared non-linear points about evidence he thought jurors should question, from the odds forensic scientists calculated in analyzing DNA evidence, to his disbelief that someone would believe he could rape and kill a child when he has three of his own.

Clinton took the stand to make an unsworn statement, exempting him from questioning by both his attorneys and prosecutors, leaving him unchecked to speak to jurors for 90 minutes.

The members of the three families he victimized, filling half of Erie County Common Pleas Judge Tygh Tone's courtroom, mostly remained quiet, enduring his monologue.

Security deputies, however, kept a close eye on Nick Fee, brother of murder victim Heather Jackson, 23, and uncle to her two children, Celina, 3, and Wayne Jr., 20 months.

Fee, who has stared down Clinton during every hearing since the killer was arrested, leaned forward in his seat, rested his arms on the barrier between the galley and the rest of the court, and clasped his hands as Clinton talked.

The 17-year-old Clyde girl Clinton raped the week before he killed the Jackson family also remained in the courtroom with her parents, and the family of Misty Keckler, an 18-year-old woman Clinton strangled to death in 1997, endured his sentencing hearing for the second time.

Special prosecutor Paul Scarsella, assisting Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter, submitted only a handful of evidence to the jury — autopsy photos of Celina and Wayne, DNA reports, and autopsy reports from the case.

Clinton's attorneys did not present opening or closing statements or call any of the witnesses to present the case they had prepared in his defense.

Clinton, they said, asked them not to.

The jury, now deliberating whether to give Clinton the death penalty, must decide whether the circumstances of the Jackson family's death outweigh all other factors that may have led to Clinton committing the murders.

In his closing statements, Scarsella submitted there were no such factors — that in Clinton's 90 minutes on the stand, he had presented nothing.

"What mitigating factors are there?" he said. "The answer to that question, truthfully, there are none."

During his time on the stand, Clinton told jurors it didn't matter what he decided, he would appeal it.

"I get to fight," he said.

— Due to graphic testimony, viewer discretion is advised —

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