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Ohio set to execute man convicted of killing infant girl

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Ohio is set to execute a man on Wednesday who was convicted of killing a six-month-old girl during a drunken sexual assault in 1998.

Steven T. Smith, 46, is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection at a state prison in Lucasville, Ohio, according to the state corrections department.

If the execution is carried out, Smith would be the tenth person executed in the United States this year and the second in Ohio, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Smith was convicted of killing Autumn Carter, the daughter of his live-in girlfriend, Kesha Frye, in what prosecutors said was a drunken sexual assault that lasted up to 30 minutes in their home in Mansfield, Ohio.

Richland County Prosecutor James Mayer told a parole board hearing that Smith shook Autumn violently, banged her head with his hands and slammed her so hard into a couch that its fabric left an impression on her face.

A coroner had found that Autumn's injuries included retinal hemorrhage, optic nerve damage and subdural bleeding.

Smith asked a parole board panel during an appearance in March to commute his sentence to life in prison. He said he was heavily intoxicated that night and had no memory of the events.

Smith admitted to the panel that he had killed Autumn, but said he did not intend to. He said he had started drinking at age 15 and had a history of alcohol-induced blackouts.

Defense attorney Joseph Wilhelm said Smith was too drunk to appreciate his actions and Autumn's death was an accident, making a death sentence inappropriate. Jurors should have been allowed to consider involuntary manslaughter, a lesser charge, he said.

Prosecutors said that Smith was seen by neighbors throwing away beer cans and Autumn's diaper that night after her death was discovered, indicating he was aware of his actions.

Ohio parole board members unanimously voted against recommending clemency. Republican Governor John Kasich, who has granted clemency to four death row inmates, rejected Smith's bid for clemency.

(Editing by David Bailey, Greg McCune and Andrew Hay)

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