Court overturns death penalty conviction in women’s slayings

July 21, 2021 GMT

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a death penalty conviction and ordered a new trial for a man who pleaded guilty to killing three women in a Cleveland suburb.

Justices said a three-judge panel in Cleveland failed to inform George Brinkman Jr., 49, about his right to question witnesses in November 2018 when he initially pleaded guilty to aggravated murder charges with death penalty specifications in the slayings of Suzanne Taylor, 45, and her daughters, Taylor Pifer, 21, and Kylie Pifer, 18.

The judges then held a three-day death penalty hearing. Two days later, realizing their mistake, they held a second plea hearing. Brinkman was sentenced to death in December 2018.

Justices in a 7-0 ruling said Brinkman’s constitutional rights were violated during the first plea hearing.

Brinkman will remain on death row despite Wednesday’s ruling. A three-judge panel in Stark County south of Cleveland sentenced him to death in October 2019 for killing Rogell John, 71, and Roberta John, 64, at their Lake Township home in June 2017.

The couple was found shot to death the day after Taylor and her daughters were found murdered in North Royalton.

Tyler Sinclair, a spokesperson for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, released a statement calling the court decision a “very unfortunate ruling that will cause additional trauma for the families of the these victims.” The statement said prosecutors are committed to holding Brinkman accountable.

A message seeking comment was left with Brinkman’s lead appellate attorney.