Court upholds trucker’s death penalty conviction

The Ohio Supreme Court has affirmed the death sentence of a trucker convicted for the 2007 murders of his boss and the company safety director.

The justices upheld 5-2 a lower court’s conviction and sentence of Calvin Neyland Jr., 50, of Toledo. He had pleaded not guilty at trial but received a guilty verdict on two counts of aggravated murder.

Neyland’s criminal record had been limited to a 1987 conviction for bad checks when the Pennsylvania-based Liberty Transportation hired the longtime trucker in July 2006, according to court records.

The following spring, Doug Smith, manager at the company’s Toledo-area office, talked to Neyland about one of the customer complaints about the driver. That meeting ended with Neyland seated in a lawn chair outside Smith’s office as the trucker dialed the manager repeatedly.    

After Neyland had been citied for falsifying logs and incurred driving violations, Liberty informed him he would be terminated for any further violations of completing a false document. After the driver was found at fault in a vehicle accident, the company prepared to fire him Aug. 8.

Smith asked Liberty Safety Director Thomas Lazar to attend that meeting. When Neyland arrived, Lazar, a retired Pennsylvania state trooper, was outside the building and Smith was in his office.

He shot Lazar four times in the back and once in the arm. Smith called 911, but Neyland entered the manager’s office and shot Smith in the head. The driver then drove the Liberty truck to a Michigan motel, where he was arrested a short time later.

One physician concluded Neyland was mentally ill and was incompetent to stand trial, but three other experts determined he had personality disorders but was not mentally ill.

One justice concurred with most convictions, but dissented on the death sentence because of aggravating and mitigating circumstances. The second dissented because of Neyland’s mental illness and because he considers death penalty cruel and unusual punishment.