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April 1, 2009

Ohio's death row getting smaller (though new AG still laments pace of appeals)

Ohio law requires the state Attorney General to produce an annual report that details the status of all individuals sentenced to death in the state.  As detailed in this official press release, the 2008 report was released today and can be accessed here.  Helpfully, this local article provides some of the intriguing data highlights from the nearly 300-page report:

Ohio's Death Row, once bulging with more than 200 condemned killers, is shrinking due to both executions and successful legal appeals.  The annual Capital Crimes Report released today by Attorney General Richard Cordray showed that 15 people got off Death Row last year. 

Only two of them, Richard Wade Cooey II and Gregory Bryant-Bey, were executed. A third, James Taylor, died of natural causes. Kenneth Richey was released as a result of a plea bargain.  Of the remaining 11 cases, two inmates had their death penalty sentences overturned and the others were sent down to lower courts for re-sentencing or new trials, Cordray's report showed.

At the same time, just three new death sentences were imposed statewide, one each in Mahoning, Summit and Wood counties.  Lower numbers are a continuing trend.  While there were 53 death sentence imposed between 2000 and 2008, more than twice that many, 123, were imposed from 1990 through 1999....

Cordray reported that 28 capital cases are pending in the state court system, with 118 pending in federal courts. That compares with 44 and 136, respectively, a year ago.  Ohio has executed 28 men since resuming capital punishment in 1999 after a 36-year hiatus....

About half of all inmates on Death Row are black, with 45 percent white and about 4 percent another race.  The average age of the condemned men, plus one woman, is 44.7 years.  The average time spent on Death Row is 13.6 years.  Of 245 murder victims, roughly half were women, 20 percent were children and two-thirds were white, according to the report.

Thanks to this post at Law Dork 2.0, I see that Ohio's new Attorney General, Rich Cordray, decides to keep up a venerable Ohio AG tradition of complaining about the pace of capital appeals.  This AP article has the details:

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray says the death penalty appeals process is still too long and sometimes defeats the possibility of justice being done.  Cordray tells The Associated Press on Wednesday that, even if lengthy appeals result in a new trial, it’s difficult to feel justice can be achieved because so much has changed over time.

Cordray also says it’s a bogus argument to say the death penalty should be eliminated because cases take too long and cost too much.

I have a feeling that Ohio AG Cordray did not use the word "bogus" to describe abolitionist arguments based on the costs of capital cases.  Still, it is interesting and notable that a Democratic AG in a (solidly blue?) northern state is apparently complaining about lengthy appeals and seems eager to reject a death penalty repeal argument that has become quite popular of late.

April 1, 2009 at 05:31 PM | Permalink

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