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Man Fights Death Penalty For Dad’s Killer

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (CBS) – A Chicago man, whose father was murdered more than a decade ago, is trying to stop the execution of the man who was convicted of the murder.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel reports, Johnnie Baston is scheduled to be executed in Ohio next month for the murder of Chong-Hooh Mah, 53, a South Korean immigrant who operated two retail stores in Toledo, Ohio.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel reports

His son, Peter Mah, says executing Baston is “never going to repair anything that’s already been done. It’s not going to make me feel better to see Johnnie Baston die, and it won’t bring my father back. It’s not going to do any of these things. I just don’t think that that’s a good resolution for anything.”

Mah, acting as family spokesman, signed an affidavit last month that outlines the family’s opposition to the death penalty for Baston, a position the Mah family has held since Baston’s trial.

Mah, 38, a Chicago restaurant owner, said the family is satisfied with Baston serving a prison sentence for his crime.

“A life has already been lost and someone chose that, but you know it shouldn’t be our choice as well,” he said.

Opposition by some victim’s family members to an execution is not uncommon. It’s rarer for a family to stand unified against the death sentence.

In 2009, then-Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland spared Jeffrey Hill, sentenced to die for killing his mother in a crack-cocaine induced robbery, based on the opposition of surviving family members to an execution. But in that case, the victim’s relatives were also Hill’s relatives.

Chong-Hooh Mah was a journalist in South Korea before emigrating and opening two retail stores in Toledo, including Continental Wigs and Things in downtown Toledo. He started life over as a manual laborer before opening his stores and rarely took a day off, his brother, Chonggi Mah, testified at the end of Baston’s 1995 trial.

Mah’s wife, Jin Ju Mah, found her husband dead in the back of the store after she grew worried because she couldn’t reach him on the phone.

The Lucas County, Ohio, Prosecutor’s office acknowledges the family’s opposition to Baston’s execution but points out the family testified strongly about its anguish and Baston’s lack of remorse.

“Most painful of all was watching the convict sit through the trial with a blank expression,” Chonggi Mah, told the three-judge panel that sentenced Baston.

“Not once through the whole thing did he show that he was sorry or show any sadness about what he did to my brother and his family,” he said.

Peter Mah, then an Ohio State University student, also expressed deep sorrow about what happened when he testified to the three-judge panel.

“When my father died last March part of every one of my family died with him,” Mah said in 1995. “Laughter and joy that used to surround our house was gone. All the dreams that we had for the future were taken away.”

Baston’s attorneys say he was abandoned as an infant, has never seen his mother and was rebuffed by his father when he attempted to move back in with him. As a boy Baston would wander the streets with his dog trying to find his mother.

The Ohio Parole Board is expected to rule Friday on the whether to carry out the death sentence for Baston.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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