As the judge read Rayshawn Johnson’s death sentence Tuesday, Mark Piepmeier stared at the murderer.
Piepmeier, the chief deputy Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor, convicted Johnson and won a death sentence against him in 1998. He had to seek the death penalty a second time after a 2008 appeals court ruled Johnson was guilty but deserved a new sentencing phase.
Piepmeier was determined to see how Johnson would react this time after he saw no emotion following the first death sentence more than a decade ago.
“He’s never reacted in the past. Maybe at some point the enormity of what he did will sink in. He just doesn’t care,” Piepmeier said moments after Common Pleas Court Judge Ralph “Ted” Winkler followed the jury’s recommendation and sentenced Johnson to death.
“He was not even flinching. That’s what cold-hearted killers do.”
Johnson bludgeoned Shanon Marks to death in the bathroom of her East Walnut Hills home in a Nov. 12, 1997, incident. Johnson, who lived in a house behind the Marks house, said he went there to try to rob her but she put up a fight and he beat her to death with a baseball bat. Then he took $50 from her and left her on the floor for her husband to find more than eight hours later.
After confessing, he was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in the first trial in 1998. But an appeals court ruled that Johnson’s 1998 attorneys failed in the punishment phase by doing nothing to try to save Johnson from death and ordered, in a rare move, that he be given a new trial but only on the punishment phase.
Johnson’s guilt or innocence was never at question in the second trial, only if he would get a second death sentence or life in prison.
“He knew the reality of what was going to happen,” Johnson’s attorney Will Welsh said after the death sentence was announced.
“We’re not aware of any judge in Hamilton County ever overturning a (jury-recommended) death penalty and we made him aware of that. It starts over.”
Welsh was referring to Johnson’s appeal process that could last another decade or longer.
But Prosecutor Joe Deters believed Johnson’s appeals process will be much shorter because it cannot take into consideration this time his guilt or innocence.
“I’m really optimistic it will move a lot faster,” Deters said.
Calling the murder “an obscene act,” Deters said “Hopefully, he’ll be executed for it.”
Johnson, now 33, was 19 at the time of the murder.
Winkler set an April 10 execution date but that is an artificial date because all death sentences are automatically appealed.