Jury Recommends Death Penalty for Man Who Murdered a Couple During Robbery

By Zachary Stieber

A jury in Ohio recommended the death penalty for a convicted killer.

Joseph McAlpin, 32, and two other men broke into a car dealership in Cleveland on April 14, 2017, police said. They killed Trina and Michael Kuznik, who owned the dealership, along with the couple’s dog.

McAlpin was convicted in April of a slew of charges, including four counts each of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary.

The jury recommended the death penalty on May 16 after weighing the decision for less than an hour, reported News 5. Judge Brian Corrigan will take the recommendation into consideration when he sentences McAlpin on May 21.

Prior to the jury’s recommendation, McAlpin asked the jury to spare him from death.

The convicted killer, who is representing himself, pleaded with the jury on Monday.

“This whole case is because somebody was murdered,” McAlpin said in his opening statement, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. “And yet, it’s OK to take another’s life, to give comfort and sleep or closure to one family, and at the same time take away the comfort and sleep of another family. What’s the difference? It’s only cool because it’s on one side. It looks different when it’s on the other side.”

Prosecutors said that McAlpin shot Michael Kuznik in the head in a room in the dealership. His DNA was found in Kuznik’s back pocket, where the dealership owner had some cash from car sales that day. The cash was missing.

Trina Kuznik was also shot by McAlpin after she tried to flee the building, according to prosecutors.

Andrew Keener, one of the men with McAlpin, confessed to helping rob the dealership and pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Keener was originally scheduled to be sentenced on April 29, according to News 5, but the sentencing was pushed back to after McAlpin’s trial wraps up, according to the Plain-Dealer.

The third man, McAlpin’s brother Jerome Diggs, pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder and other charges. His case is still pending.

Death Penalty in Ohio

Ohio has executed 494 criminals in its history, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. It currently has 142 people on death row, including one woman.

According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction, there are six men slated to be executed in the state before 2020. The next one is slated for Sept. 12.

Six people are scheduled to be executed in 2020, six more in 2021, four in 2022, and one in 2023.

“Capital punishment has been a part of Ohio’s justice system since early in the state’s history,” the department stated.

Ohio carried out public hangings from 1803, when it became a state, to 1885. That year, the legislature required hangings to be carried out at the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus. In 1987, the state began using the electric chair for executions and continued until 1963.

A bill passed in 1993 let prisoners choose whether to be executed by electrocution or lethal injection. It now uses only lethal injection.