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February 21, 2012

"Is Ohio's death penalty under its own death watch? Questions, criticism mount about Ohio executions"

The title of this post is the headline of this extended article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which gets started this way:

Ohio's capital punishment system could be under its own death watch as scrutiny over how the state executes prisoners has led to calls for significant changes -- if not an outright repeal -- of the death penalty.

Despite the issues plaguing the state's execution process, Ohio officials say they are certain they are getting this call on life-or-death right.  "I feel that we have a solid protocol, and I know that we have the professionally trained staff to execute that protocol," Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction director Gary Mohr told The Plain Dealer.  "I have no reservations with saying that at all."

But Mohr knows there are plenty of people from judges to former prison officials to anti-death penalty activists who have heavy concerns about the death penalty.  They question why some criminals land on death row and others do not, whether the state's execution procedures are legal and whether the system can be revamped to restore waning public trust.

In just the past few years, Ohio has:

  • Botched one execution, which had to be postponed, and had two others with lengthy delays, including one in which the inmate, while strapped to the gurney in the execution chamber, cried out, "This isn't working."
  • Under legal duress, switched from a three-drug concoction to a one-drug dose for lethal injection, a change that is the subject of a lawsuit.
  • Defended itself in numerous inmate lawsuits questioning whether rights against cruel and unusual punishment are violated during executions.
  • Instituted a moratorium of sorts after a federal judge stayed an execution until Ohio revises its procedures, a ruling upheld this month by the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Been the target of critics who now include a sitting Ohio Supreme Court justice and two former state prisons directors.
  • Seen two bills introduced in the Republican-controlled General Assembly that would repeal the death penalty.

February 21, 2012 at 09:55 AM | Permalink


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Switch to the firing squad and put an end to this nonsense.

Posted by: alpino | Feb 21, 2012 10:33:40 AM

Conspicuously missing among the bullet points are:

-- Has executed anyone who didn't do it.

-- Is imposed on anyone for less than a calculated or violent murder or murders.

-- Is opposed by anything approaching a majority of the state's voters.

It's standard abolitionist prefab talking points that, "Questions are being raised..." or "Increasingly urgent voices oppose..." or "Bills have been introduced...," etc., et al. I could write bromides like that in my sleep, and they would be just as effective as anything else that gets written in one's sleep.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 21, 2012 12:21:46 PM

Is there anyone who lives in Ohio, and knows Ohio politics, who can say whether there is a chance of repealing the death penalty? From a distance it seems like the execution protocol mess is a mess of the Ohio goverment's own creation, and could easily be resolved if the Ohio AG and Department of Corrections could set a protocol, follow it and stop lying to federal judges. And from a distance it seems like they are getting off really easy, as most people spend several years in prison if they lie to a federal judge. But it seems that as soon as the Ohio government sorts out a proper execution protocol and stops lying that executions will resume.

Beyond the self-created mess about the execution protocol, they have innocence issues, but I don't see how Tyrone Noling will incite abolition when Larry Swearingen doesn't even start a conversation. I also don't see Justice Pfeifer's opinions against the death penalty will cause action when Justices Blackmun, Powell and Stevens's statements of opposition changed nothing.

Posted by: Paul | Feb 22, 2012 9:30:23 PM

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