No new trial for Aryan killer

Madison Press/December 6, 2002
By Steve Smith

An Aryan Brotherhood leader convicted of killing a young black inmate in the Madison Correctional Institution in 1996 will not receive a new trial.

John C. Stojetz has failed in his effort to convince the 12th District Court of Appeals to grant him a new trial in the stabbing death of Damico Watkins, 17, an inmate in MaCI's special Adams Alpha unit. The unit houses juveniles tried as adults and is the only one of its kind in the Ohio prison system.

In 1996 Stojetz was an inmate at MaCI and was the alleged leader of the prison's Aryan Brotherhood faction, a white-seperatist group.

On April 25, 1996, Stojetz and five other white adult inmates armed with homemade knives took over the juvenile unit, chased Watkins down and stabbed him 40 times. Six of the wounds were declared to be lethal and two of those were attributed to the "shank" used by Stojetz.

"As Watkins pled for his life, Stojetz and a fellow inmate repeatedly stabbed Watkins and left him for dead," according to the appeals court decision issued this week.

It goes on to say that the Aryan Brotherhood members turned themselves in immediately and that evidence at trial revealed that the gang committed the crime in an effort to get transferred to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville.

"They were going to do what they had to do to get their wish," according to the appeals court judges. Following a 1997 jury trial in Madison County Common Pleas Court, Stojetz was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to death. His conviction and sentence were later affirmed by the Ohio Supreme Court. Stojetz currently is on death row in Youngstown.

Two accomplices were tried and convicted of murder while three others entered guilty pleas. One of those defendants, Phillip Wierzgac, testified at a 1998 trial that he did not see Stojetz stab the youth.

Based on that testimony, Stojetz filed a motion seeking a new trial and alleging that he is innocent. The three judge appeals court panel did not buy it. Writing for a unanimous appeals court, Judge Anthony Valen said before a new trial can be granted on the basis of new evidence, there must be "a strong probability that it would change the result if a new trial is granted."

Valen pointed out that Wierzgac did not testify that Stojetz did not stab Watkins, but only that the inmates he saw stab the youth did not include Stojetz. Judge Valen said the evidence shows that Wierzgac "was busy standing guard and did not witness the entire attack on Watkins," and there is "no strong probability" that his statements would have changed the outcome of the trial.

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