Wilford Berry was the first Ohioan executed following the reestablishment of the death penalty in the United States of America in 1981.
In December 1989, Berry murdered his employer, Charles Mitroff, Jr. A jury found Berry guilty of murder and sentenced him to death.
After serving several years in prison, Berry decided to waive his right to any further appeals and requested that prison officials carry out his death sentence. Although Berry essentially fired his legal counsel, the Ohio Public Defenders Office and some of his family members refused to drop his case, arguing that Berry's abusive childhood and schizophrenia made the inmate incapable of deciding for himself to refrain from any further appeals. Because Berry desired to waive his appeals so that he could die, he became known as "The Volunteer." Several courts either disagreed with the Ohio Public Defenders Office's arguments or, as in the case of the United States Supreme Court, refused to hear the case. Governor Bob Taft also refused to grant Berry clemency.
On February 19, 1999, Berry's death sentence took place. He chose to die by lethal injection. The State of Ohio carried out the previous execution in 1963. Many critics of the death penalty feared that, once Ohio's first execution took place, others would quickly follow. Whether they believed that the death penalty was inhumane or immoral, numerous opponents to the death penalty actively protested Berry's execution. The State of Ohio executed the next inmate in 2001. Between 2001 and the end of 2004, a total of fourteen executions occurred in Ohio.