Shawn Grate

ASHLAND -- Convicted serial killer Shawn Grate has been appointed a new attorney, who intends to file an application to reopen his death penalty case, according to court documents

The Ohio Supreme Court granted a motion Thursday allowing Elizabeth Arrick of Lexington, Ky., to represent Grate, convicted of killing five women in three Ohio counties -- Ashland, Richland and Marion.

In the motion, filed Jan. 28, Arrick expressed intentions to file an application to reopen Grate's case on March 30, if there is a "genuine issue as to whether the applicant was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel on appeal."

Arrick is a senior associate with Nichols Walter PLLC, according to the law firm's website. The website said she earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Kenyon College and graduated from Capital University Law School in 2009.

Prior to joining the firm, Arrick worked as an appellate attorney at the Ohio Public Defenders Office in the death penalty division, where she represented clients in state and federal court on direct appeal and complex habeas proceedings, according the Nichols Walter website.

Ashland County Common Pleas Judge Ronald P. Forsthoefel sentenced Grate in 2018 to death and a minimum of 90 years to life in prison for the murders of Stacey Stanley and Elizabeth Griffith. The death sentence was recommended by an Ashland County jury. 

Grate, of Ashland, was later additionally sentenced to life in prison without parole in Richland County for the murders of two Mansfield women and again in Marion County for the murder of a Louisiana woman.

The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously upheld Grate’s conviction and death sentence  for the murder of two Ashland women in late December 2020. The court ruled there were no errors in proceedings denying Grate a fair trial.

In his appeal, Grate had argued there were errors in his trial and that his defense counsel was ineffective. 

Though all the Ohio Supreme Court Justices ultimately upheld Grate's conviction and sentencing, Justice Michael P. Donnelly did issue an opinion, in which he called "very concerning" the actions of Grate's trial defense lawyers.

"The ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims that I find to be particularly significant are related to counsel’s failure to present adequate psychiatric and neurological evidence in the mitigation phase of Grate’s capital proceedings," Donnelly said, according to court documents.

He went on to say the "overwhelming evidence of Grate’s guilt" would negate any possibility of prejudice in an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim. 

During the trial in Ashland County, Grate was represented by Richland County attorneys Robert Whitney and Rolf Whitney.

Neither Ashland County Prosecutor Christopher R. Tunnell nor Arrick were available for comment Friday morning.

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