Death penalty in Howland murder case affirmed

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WYTV) -The Ohio Supreme Court has affirmed the death sentence of a man convicted in a 2001 murder in Trumbull County.

A trial judge’s error prompted the Supreme Court to vacate the death sentence of Nathaniel Jackson in the murder of Robert Fingerhut and ordered that Jackson be re-sentenced.

The Court voted 6 to 1 Wednesday to affirm the death penalty in the case.

The Eleventh District Court of Appeals vacated the initial death sentence when it found an assistant prosecutor improperly assisted the trial judge in preparing the sentencing opinion.

Justice Paul E. Pfiefer concluded the error was harmless and was corrected by the Court’s independent evaluation of the sentence.

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, the only dissenting vote, said that the court did not take Jackson’s words into account before re-sentencing and that he is entitled to receive a sentencing hearing where his statements are considered before a sentence is imposed.

Prosecutors say Jackson conspired from prison to murder Fingerhut after developing a relationship with his wife Donna Roberts.

Donna Roberts was sentenced to death for conspiring to have her husband killed by Nathaniel Jackson. Roberts lived with Fingerhut in Howland Township, and Fingerhut had two life insurance policies worth a total of $550,000 in which Roberts was named the sole beneficiary. Roberts began an affair with Jackson, which continued while Jackson was confined in the Lorain Correctional Institution.

While in prison, Jackson and Roberts exchanged numerous letters and spoke by phone to plot the murder of Fingerhut. At Jackson’s request, Roberts purchased a ski mask and pair of gloves for Jackson to use during the murder. Roberts picked up Jackson from Lorain Correctional when he was released and two days later, Fingerhut was shot to death in his home.

Jackson was indicted on two counts of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery. In 2002, a jury found Jackson guilty of all charges and recommended the death penalty. The late Judge John Stuard, who presided over Jackson’s trial and imposed the death sentence.

Judge Stuard also presided over Roberts’ capital murder trial and she was found guilty of aggravated murder and other offenses, and was sentenced to death. In 2006, the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed Roberts’ convictions, but vacated her death sentence and remanded the case to the trial court because the judge, as in Jackson’s case, had enlisted the assistant county prosecutor who tried the case in drafting the sentencing opinion.

Roberts death penalty was also subsequently affirmed. Her appeal of that sentence is still pending before the Court.


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