When the violent and deadly melee at an Ohio prison had ended, John C. Stojetz had one thing to say to a corrections officer.
“I told you it was going to happen,” Stojetz said.
The reason for the attack: Stojetz and other inmates who were members of the violent prison gang the Aryan Brotherhood didn’t want to share cells with black inmates.
A jury sentenced Stojetz to death for his role in the 1996 riot that resulted in the death of Damico Watkins, a 17-year-old black inmate at Madison Correctional Institution in London, Ohio.
Now, a federal appeals court on Tuesday turned down the appeals of the 62-year-old Stojetz, moving him a step closer to an execution.
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the multiple legal objections raised by Stojetz, including his claim that defense attorneys in the case were ineffective and that jurors didn’t properly consider his defense.
“Almost all of the considerations to which Stojetz now points were, in fact, before the jury in some form; jurors simply declined to accord them the weight that he prefers,” Judge Danny Boggs wrote for a three-judge panel.
The Aryan Brotherhood formed around the time prisons desegregated in the 1960s, becoming a small, but violently militant force behind the walls. The group has around 20,000 members, but is known for violent tendencies, as well as the motto “Blood in, blood out.”
As a crime syndicate, the AB participates in drug trafficking, male prostitution rings, gambling and extortion inside prison walls.
On the streets, the AB is involved in practically every kind of criminal enterprise, including murder-for-hire, armed robbery, gun running, methamphetamine manufacturing, heroin sales, counterfeiting and identity theft.
The FBI considers the gang to be relatively small in number given the size of the U.S. prison population, but responsible for a disproportionate number of violent incidents over the decades.
Stojetz and four other members of the Aryan Brotherhood armed with homemade knives – called shanks – ran across the prison yard at Madison Correctional Institution on April 25, 1996, toward the Adams Alpha Unit, where juveniles convicted as adults were housed.
Their goal was to force a transfer to another prison where they wouldn’t have to share cells with black inmates. Corrections officers noted later that Stojetz and his co-defendants, Jerry Bishop, David Lovejoy, William Vandersommen and Phillip Weirzack, had packed their bags in anticipation of being moved.
After holding a corrections officer hostage to get his cell keys (the guard was later released), Stojetz and the other Aryan Brotherhood members went to cell 144, where Watkins was being held.
Watkins escaped an initial attack, but Stojetz and the other Aryan Brotherhood members chased him down several times before cornering him in another part of the prison.
As Watkins begged for his life, Stojetz and another gang member stabbed and killed him.
“Stojetz stabbed Watkins multiple times after Watkins fell to the ground,” Boggs wrote.
After the attack, Boggs noted that the attackers told corrections officers “We killed the n-----. We did what we had to do,” and wrote “Don’t f--- with the (Aryan Brotherhood)” on the wall.
Lovejoy, Vandersommen and Weirzack each pleaded guilty to their roles in Watkins death.
Lovejoy and Weirzack are no longer listed as inmates with the Ohio Department of Corrections.
Vandersommen, 51, is serving 20 years to life in prison.
Bishop, 51, was convicted of murder and is serving 15 years to life.
Stojetz was convicted of aggravated murder. He is currently being held at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution in Chillicothe, Ohio.