CINCINNATI (AP) -- An Ohio man has rejected a legal argument that could spare him from the death penalty in the killing of a pizzeria owner during a robbery last summer.
Court-appointed attorneys for John Deloney, 28, of Cincinnati, argued at a Friday hearing in Hamilton County court that their client should be declared "mentally retarded" under Ohio law.
Although many consider the term offensive, Ohio law uses it to define anyone with an IQ below 70. Those who fall into the category are ineligible for the death penalty.
An agitated Deloney told the judge in the case that he's not mentally disabled and demanded that his trial start immediately.
"Let's go ahead and start the trial with the death penalty. That's what I want," Deloney told Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Ethna Cooper, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer, (http://cin.ci/1oaKP1E)
"They pretty much called me retarded," Deloney said of his attorneys. "I don't want anybody to disrespect me."
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Deloney in the June 15 shooting death of Richard Evans, the owner of Cosmic Pizza in the northern Cincinnati neighborhood of Hartwell.
Prosecutors say that Deloney robbed Evans at gunpoint and then shot him as he ran away. Evans died in his wife's arms minutes later in front of the pizzeria.
Prosecutors say they have strong evidence in the case, including surveillance video that shows Deloney robbing Evans, a taped statement with Deloney acknowledging that he killed Evans, DNA and a palm print that matches Deloney.
"There is zero doubt that this is the person who committed the crime," assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said.
Deloney has said that his twin brother or another man with his same name may be the real killer.
Judge Cooper explained to Deloney during Friday's hearing that by trying to have him declared "mentally retarded" under the law, his attorneys were only trying to spare him from the death penalty.
"I'm not retarded," Deloney told the judge.
When Cooper again tried to explain that his attorneys' efforts to have him declared "mentally retarded" was good for his criminal case, Deloney continued to reject the term and insisted that his trial start immediately.
Deloney's attorneys then withdrew from the case. Cooper set a hearing next week to appoint new lawyers.
Perry Ancona, one of the attorneys who withdrew, declined to discuss details of the case and said he asked to be taken off it because Deloney refused to talk to him.