Convicted serial killer's new sentencing hearing will begin in May 2017

Attorney trying to avoid death penalty
Posted at 11:19 AM, Dec 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-20 11:19:55-05

CINCINNATI -- Convicted serial killer Anthony Kirkland will have a chance to avoid the death penalty when his new sentencing hearing begins May 8, 2017.

Kirkland was found guilty of and sentenced to death in 2010.

In May 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court decided Kirkland should be re-sentenced due to remarks made by the prosecutor during his trial.

Kirkland has a new attorney after his original attorney withdrew himself from the case due to a heavy workload of other capital cases. Judge Charles Kubicki, the same judge who sentenced Kirkland to death in 2010, "disqualified" himself from the re-sentencing trial on Wednesday.

In 2010, prosecutors argued that without a death sentence, the killings of 13-year-old Esme Kenney in 2009 and 14-year-old Casonya Crawford in 2006 would go unpunished.

Kirkland was found guilty of aggravated murder, attempted rape and other charges in the Kenney and Crawford deaths. Before his trial, Kirkland also pleaded guilty to the slayings of two other Cincinnati women, 45-year-old Mary Jo Newton and 25-year-old Kimya Rolison, and received life sentences. He previously served a 16-year sentence for killing his girlfriend.

Kirkland kidnapped Kenney, a cello player at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, as she jogged alone around the Winton Hills reservoir close to her home on Saturday afternoon, March 7, 2009. Her parents had called police when she didn't come right home, and police were already out looking for her when they came upon Kirkland in the woods. He had Kenney's iPod and her watch. They found her body nearby.

At the sentencing phase, the prosecutor questioned whether the killings of the Kenney and Crawford were "just freebies for him." This was the comment that would lead to Kirkland's chance to be re-sentenced.

Prosecutors argued in a 2011 filing with the court that the prosecutor's comment was appropriate because part of the death penalty case against Kirkland was that the girls' killings was part of a "course of conduct" involving four victims.

"The significance is that one of the reasons death was appropriate was the number of victims," William Breyer, Hamilton County chief assistant prosecuting attorney, said in the filing.

Potential jurors in the case will report to the Hamilton County Courthouse to fill out questionnaires on May 3.