Sixth Circuit denies final appeal for death row inmate


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied a petition for a new hearing in the appeals case of a Genoa Township man currently on death row after being convicted in 2003 for murdering his wife and a friend.

Gerald Robert Hand, 67, is currently incarcerated in the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, where he has been since June 24, 2003, shortly after he was convicted of two aggravated murder charges and sentenced to death.

Hand was originally scheduled to be executed on Sept. 8, 2003, but is still appealing the verdict in the case.

His latest appeal, filed in with the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in April 2016, alleges that there were several constitutional violations in the case. The alleged violations include: the court failing to adequately question jurors about news coverage of the trial; Hand’s attorney failing to present expert psychological testimony at sentencing; and the jury convicted Hand based on insufficient evidence.

A hearing was held before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 26, and on Sept. 8 the court issued a ruling in the matter, denying Hand’s petition.

Hand then appealed to the court, asking for a new rehearing before the full court of appeals and on Oct. 18. The Sixth Circuit denied that petition for a new hearing.

“The petition then was circulated to the full court. No judge requested a vote on the suggestion for [the rehearing.],” wrote the clerk of courts for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. “Therefore, the petition is denied.”

A new execution date has not been scheduled, but Hand may appeal his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case was prosecuted by then-Delaware County Prosecutor Dave Yost and assistant county prosecutors David Gormley and Marianne Hemmeter.

During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Hand was responsible for the shooting deaths of his fourth wife, Jill Hand, 58, and his longtime friend and employee, Walter “Lonnie” Welch, 55, at Hand’s home in Genoa Township on Jan. 15, 2002.

Hand told police that an intruder entered his home and shot Jill. Hand said he picked up two pistols and shot at the intruder not realizing it was Welch. Police found Welch’s body in the driveway of a neighbor’s house and reported he had been shot several times in the face, chest, and back.

Prosecutors contended that Hand conspired with Welch to kill Jill Hand for life insurance money and double crossed Welch on Jan. 15. Prosecutors said Hand killed him to silence him about their plot to kill Jill Hand and two of Hand’s previous wives. Prosecutors said that on Jan. 15, Hand killed his wife, then waited for Welch to arrive before killing him.

One of Hand’s previous wives, Donna, was found strangled in the basement of the Hand’s home in Columbus in 1976. Lori Hand, Gerald’s next wife, was found murdered in a similar fashion three years later. Prosecutors said Hand paid Welch to commit the murders.

Hand had alibis for the 1970s murders and was never charged.

“This defendant is either the most unlucky man that any of you will ever see. A man who has, through no fault of his own, lost three of his wives to random acts of murder, or he is instead a vicious killer whose quest for financial gain has led directly to the deaths of those three wives,” Gormley told the jurors at the time, according to a story that appeared in The Gazette.

The Gazette reported in 2003 that there were more than 300 exhibits and more than 60 witnesses in the case. The jury returned a guilty verdict on two counts of aggravated murder, three counts of conspiracy to commit murder, and one count of attempted escape.

The trial lasted four weeks and the jury deliberated for eight hours. He was sentenced to death on June 4, 2003.

It was the first death row case in Delaware County since 1987.

Hand Courtesy photo | Ohio Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

By Glenn Battishill

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Contact Glenn Battishill at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

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