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September 24, 2007

ABA releases mega-report criticizing Ohio's death penalty

Continuing the extraordinary efforts of the American Bar Association's extraordinary Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project, today you can now read a nearly 500-page(!) report about the application of the death penalty in Ohio.  Helpfully, this webpage links all the parts of the "Ohio Death Penalty Assessment Report," including a link to this executive summary

The executive summary runs 40+ pages, but there is no executive summary of the executive summary.  Fortunately, this fact sheet provides a two-page set of highlights with this set up: "The Ohio Death Penalty Assessment Team, working with the American Bar Association, has found that Ohio’s death penalty is plagued with serious problems. The Team recommends a number of reforms that would help to improve the fairness and accuracy of Ohio’s system. Until these reforms are implemented, Ohio should temporarily suspend executions."

I have complained in the past that these mega-reports represent an extraordinary investment of time and energy trying to ensure that a bunch of murderers get to spend a bit more time locked in a cage before they die.  My particular concern was that these very detailed reports seem unlikely to get much traction (or even be read) in states with politicians that are very committed to the death penalty.  In Ohio, however, we have a governor and attorney general more than a few state legislators who have repeatedly expressed reservations about capital punishment.  The Ohio reaction to this ABA report should be a good test of whether all this work by the ABA can be truly consequential.

Of course, I expect the Ohio Death Penalty Information blog to provide copious coverage of the ABA's work and local reaction thereto.

Some prior posts (and concerns) about the ABA's moratorium project:

September 24, 2007 at 09:53 AM | Permalink

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Comments

"these mega-reports represent an extraordinary investment of time and energy trying to ensure that a bunch of murderers get to spend a bit more time locked in a cage before they die". somehow, i expect you to be above these insensitive generalizations. i get the point, but it's akin to saying that "guantanamo attorneys are doing nothing but trying to ensure that a bunch of terrorists get permission to go on a field trip to a real courtroom."

Posted by: jp | Sep 24, 2007 1:10:14 PM

Ho hum. Yet another phonebook-sized report with a bottom line that was predictable with certainty from the day the project was begun, produced by an organization pretending to be neutral when it is in fact totally on one side.

So what else is new?

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Sep 24, 2007 1:54:00 PM

Kent,

"So what else is new?"

Not your post.

Posted by: | Sep 24, 2007 2:16:44 PM

Seriously... does the ABA have any credibility with anyone other than non-lawyers?

Posted by: | Sep 24, 2007 3:46:39 PM

Seriously, do non-lawyers matter?

Whether and under what circumstances it is acceptable for the state to kill people will, for better or worse, be decided by lawyers.

Posted by: S.cotus | Sep 24, 2007 4:37:25 PM

JP,

I think a lot more is at stake in the GITMO litigation than is involved in any capital litigation. I know I am being a bit sensational in my characterization, but I really do have a hard time seeing much of the hand-wringing about capital punishment to be about little more than getting a very few defendants a different sentence that, by many measures, is not much more humane.

Posted by: Doug B. | Sep 24, 2007 8:18:19 PM

Whether or not you agree with DB, you need to look at his point like this:

Suppose there were two kinds of systems of justice. One for capital defendants and another for non-capital defendants. The capital system would be well-funded, and each defendant would get six lawyers (with a minimum of 100 years experience between them) and would have additional procedural rights. (i.e. immediate appeal, exclusion of judges as a matter of right (by the defense only), the ability to force the state to immunize a witness). Prosecutors would have unlimited resources, but no additional legal mechanisms. There would be two outcomes: acquittal or death.

The non-capital system would be as it is now, or a little worse. The outcomes would be the same, but, obviously, the DP would be off the table.

Prosecutors could choose which one they wished to play in.

My take on DB position is that this system doesn’t seem too much more just. Sure, capital defendants might get a few more witnesses, but really, that is it.

Posted by: S. COTUS | Sep 25, 2007 6:00:56 AM

The ABA report can be summarily dismissed. Why? Because it subscribes to that most ridiculous of claims against the death penalty: geographic bias. If one jurisdiction (e.g., San Francisco) decides that the death penalty simply isn't worth it, then why does that local decision create a problem of "fairness"?

The answer is that it doesn't. Capital murderers aren't entitled to some cosmic fairness with each jurisdiction seeking death under the same specific criteria. And even if prosecutors were required to seek death or not seek death (even if the crime fell under the death penalty statute), there are still differences in jury outcomes, which cannot be remedied.

And what is Koosed doing on the assessment team?

Posted by: federalist | Sep 25, 2007 9:38:34 AM

You can write your own report about how wonderful killin' is.

Posted by: S.cotus | Sep 25, 2007 4:08:56 PM

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