Dennis Balske

Document Type



Sandra’s case was perfect for the New York Times. James’s makes for choice tabloid reading.

Few people realize that two Locketts were involved in the famous Lockett case–Sandra and her brother, James. Sandra is famous because she is the Lockett in the United States Supreme Court decision. James is unknown because the Ohio Supreme Court remanded his case to Akron for a new trial.

Sandra lost her direct appeal in the Ohio Supreme Court. Eventually the United States Supreme Court granted review and reached its all-important decision striking down Ohio’s death penalty statute and mandating that capital defendants be permitted to introduce mitigation at their sentencing trials. Meanwhile, James battled through two retrials in Akron, Ohio.

James’s case did not establish important precedent like Sandra’s, but it had many twists and turns and colorful characters. The retrials were adventures. For example, the original trial Judge, James Barbuto, prominently displayed a blowup of the newspaper report of President Kennedy’s assassination with the headline “Sniper’s Bullet Strikes Down President” in his jury deliberation room. When we moved to have him remove it, he declined. When we moved to remove him from the case, he declined. Nonetheless, he stepped aside after we petitioned the Ohio Supreme Court to remove him. Years later, Geraldo Rivera, referring to Barbuto as the “Italian Stallion,” revealed the judge’s regular sexual encounters with prostitutes and female defendants in his chambers, as well as his use of an enforcer to keep his illegal conduct secret.

“Read all about it.”