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January 27, 2007

Watch Ohio for death debates

As noted here and here, the death penalty has taken some serious blows recently.  As I have been suggesting since election night, the new Democratic administration in Ohio makes it an especially interesting state to watch as all action unfolds.  Of course, ODPI covers this action better than anyone, and here are the latest headline:

The last link references this article in today's Columbus Dispatch, which highlights that the traditional battle lines are being drawn in the Ohio death penalty debate:

Ohio's legal system hasn't sent anyone to Death Row who doesn't belong there, the head of the state prosecutors association says.  He is urging Gov. Ted Strickland not to support a capital-punishment study. "There are no mysteries here. … The death penalty is in fact being applied to exactly those persons and to those crimes for which it was intended," John E. Murphy wrote in a Jan. 15 letter to the Democratic governor.

Murphy said a study, long advocated by capital-punishment opponents and Attorney General Marc Dann during his campaign last year, would "send the wrong message to the citizens of this state that there is something wrong with our death penalty."  The only thing wrong, Murphy added, is that "it takes too long to get the penalty enforced."...

Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker strongly disagreed with Murphy's assurances about wrongly convicted inmates. "There are a dozen cases right now where there is considerable evidence that the guy is innocent," he said. "The problem is unringing the bell. If there's a conviction, the system is not likely to want to reverse the situation."  Bodiker said Murphy and many county prosecutors take the attitude, "You haven't caught us, so nothing's wrong."

Jim Tobin of the Catholic Conference of Ohio said a study has always been a goal of Ohioans to Stop Executions.  He said the group has had conversations with Strickland and Dann's staff about a study. "We would strongly encourage a nonbiased, professional study, an open dialogue and discussion," Tobin said.

UPDATE:  I also see from this article that Catholic groups are actively working against the death penalty in two other states: " In separate actions the Maryland Catholic Conference and Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Rapid City, S.D., have called for an end to the death penalty in their states."

January 27, 2007 at 11:07 AM | Permalink


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The study that is nonbiased and meaningful would be a national first. Every commission so far has been stacked, superficial, or both. The New Jersey report was correctly described here as having all the depth of a high school term paper. The California commission is heavily stacked and is nearly certain to produce a report stating one side's talking points and to be dismissed as biased garbage by the other side. If private advocacy groups want to publish such reports, that is their right, but such efforts should neither be funded by taxpayers nor bear the seal of the state.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jan 27, 2007 12:02:12 PM

Kent: Do you think a "nonbiased and meaningful" study is possible? If you were advising Ohio Gov. Strickland after he said to you that he REALLY wants a "nonbiased and meaningful" study, who would you urge play a role on such a commission? What topics would be most important to explore?

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 27, 2007 12:41:26 PM

Maryland's study was not too bad, was it?

Posted by: federalist | Jan 27, 2007 1:17:44 PM

An interesting question, Doug. If one really wanted to, I expect it would be possible to put together an evenly divided commission of thoughtful, reasonable, honest people from each side. Topics could include, inter alia, the deterrent effect of a death penalty that is actually enforced, the reasons for extended appeals in cases with no genuine claim of innocence, and the insufficient number of capital verdicts in the core urban areas.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jan 27, 2007 11:43:07 PM

The fairness of the review is based upon the committee and who appoints them. The NJ commission was stacked with anti death penalty folks and their final report reflects that strong and intended bias. The new NJ governor and AG came in as strong anti death penalty and the Gov appointed the Commission members.

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Jan 28, 2007 11:12:17 AM

Dear Doug:

Which Maryland study are you speaking of?

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Jan 28, 2007 11:14:25 AM

Dudley, I think the reference is to a study by Professor Ray Paternoster:


Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 29, 2007 6:53:53 AM

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