June 23, 2008
The popularity of LWOP instead of death in Ohio
This local AP story provides a great account of the impact in Ohio of the state's recent creation of an LWOP option in cases that would otherwise be death-penalty-eligible. Here are snippets from an interesting piece:
Prosecutors around Ohio, citing the ability to pursue harsh punishment without going through the complication and expense of a death penalty case, are starting to take advantage of the 2005 law, according to a review of state records by The Associated Press. The number of death penalty indictments sought statewide dropped 32 percent from 2004 to 2007, according to figures compiled by the Ohio Public Defender's Office.
Meanwhile, the number of life without parole sentences rose by more than two-thirds in the three years since the law took effect compared with the three years before, when 45 inmates entered prison with the permanent life sentence, according to the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Ten offenders have received the sentence so far this year....
The new law is attractive to prosecutors because of the cost of capital punishment trials and because juries increasingly prefer life without parole as a death penalty option, said State Public Defender Tim Young.
A death penalty trial can easily top $100,000 for a county as extra staff, investigators and psychological experts are hired by the defense and prosecutors. It's not inexpensive for a large county but can drain the annual budgets of smaller counties without help from the state. "If you can come to a life without parole option without having to go through that cost and it satisfies the public's need for safety and punishment, then that makes a real reasonable outcome for everyone involved," Young said.
June 23, 2008 at 08:35 AM | Permalink
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Three things to note about this news article. First, the cited source is the public defender -- no prosecutors are quoted or cited, although the article is about prosecutors' charging decisions.
Second, the tacit assumption of the article is that LWOP is as effectively incapacitating as execution. This is not the case, not by a fare-thee-well. Since Gregg, more than 100 murders have been committed by inmates IN PRISON after having perviously been convicted of murder.
Third, the article does not speak to the principal fulcrum of the DP debate, which is not whether LWOP is an acceptable option for some murders (surely it is), but whether the DP should NEVER be available to the jury.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 23, 2008 9:17:21 AM
This would never work in Cincinnati. We like to kill as many defendants as we can here. Hamilton County has more death penalty cases than any other county in Ohio, almost double, and our prosecutors are proud of that. Kill em quick and get our faces on the news. That's the name of the game.
Posted by: BABALU | Jun 23, 2008 9:59:25 AM
When you say "kill em quick," I'm wondering whether you could be more specific. How "quick?" In particular, what is the average interval between the handing down of a death sentence in Ohio and its being carried how? Since Gregg, what has been the shortest interval? The longest?
Nationally, the interval is about 12 years, which is not what most people would call "quick."
Also, are you aware of anyone in Cincinnati who was sentenced to death and later found not to have committed the murder? Do you think the punishment might have something to do with the defendant's behavior, or is it all the prosecutor's doing?
Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 23, 2008 10:28:23 AM
There are representatives of no less than six prosecutor's offices quoted in the article, including the following:
Clark County Prosecutor Stephen Schumaker
Clermont County Prosecutor Don White
Delaware County Prosecutor David Yost
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien
Ryan Miday, a spokesman for Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason
Colon Willoughby, prosecutor in Wake County, N.C.
You didn't read it, did you?
Posted by: Jay Macke | Jun 24, 2008 3:54:29 PM