AKRON, Ohio – An Ohio man convicted of fatally shooting his ailing wife in her hospital bed was sentenced Friday to six years in prison and plans to seek clemency from the governor.
John Wise, 68, has said he shot his debilitated wife out of love in August 2012 after she suffered aneurysms and appeared to be in pain at an Akron hospital. Mercy is not a defense to a murder charge in Ohio.
The sentence issued by Summit County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands was in line with prosecutors’ recommendation that the Massillon man receive a lighter punishment than the minimum 23 years on his most serious conviction, an aggravated murder count.
Holding a cane and wearing a striped jail outfit, Wise remained seated during the hearing. He made a brief statement, choking up as he apologized to his family and his son. He also thanked the prosecutors and the court.
Prosecutors said the case warranted leniency, but they emphasized that Wise’s actions were illegal.
“It is not our intention to minimize what happened. You cannot bring a loaded gun into a hospital and shoot someone,” Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said in a statement after the sentencing.
In court, Assistant Prosecutor Brian LoPrinzi told the judge: “We believe that although his motive may have been pure, he was wrong.”
Wise’s attorney, Paul Adamson, said they will pursue clemency from the governor and create an online petition for supporters to sign. He called the shooting “an aberrational act” for Wise.
“I’ve never represented a finer man,” Adamson told the judge.
The prosecutor’s office said it would oppose any reduction in Wise’s punishment.
Among those at the sentencing was Liz Flaker, one of the jurors who convicted Wise after he pursued an insanity defense. She said the jurors, who deliberated for several hours, took two votes. The first was 9-3 in favor of conviction; the second was unanimous.
“There was really no split, per se, but I think there were a couple of people that kind of wavered on ... thinking was he insane or was he not insane,” Flaker said. “I think the way the law was written for the state of Ohio is a little bit hazy.”
Prosecutors had recommended that Wise be sentenced to six years for manslaughter, a charge that wasn’t among the counts against him but is considered a lesser included offense. After neither side found previous case law to support that unusual suggestion, the prosecution instead asked the judge to sentence Wise under his felonious assault conviction with a firearms specification, and the judge did so.
Wise also was convicted of aggravated murder with a firearm specification and murder, which could have led to a life sentence.
Police say Wise calmly walked into the hospital room on Aug. 4, 2012, and shot his wife of 45 years at her bedside. She died the next day.
Wise told police he intended to kill himself, too, but the weapon jammed.
“My recollection is that I walked in there, and within two minutes, I kissed her on the cheek and shot her,” Wise told jurors.
Barbara Wise, 65, was in the intensive care unit at Akron General Medical Center after suffering triple cerebral aneurysms that had left her unable to speak, a family friend has said.
A doctor testified that Barbara Wise wasn’t terminally ill and seemed to be responding to treatment.
Associated Press writer Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this story.