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April 4, 2009

Potential Ohio AG candidate talking about speeding up capital appeals

On the heels of this week's official state report on Ohio's capital cases come this local news of a potential Ohio Attorney General candidate talking about his commitment to speed the path of condemned killers to the execution chamber:

Delaware County Prosecutor Dave Yost made an unofficial campaign stop for Ohio Attorney General Friday, telling fellow Republicans if he decides to run and is elected he would speed up the death penalty appeals process....

Yost hasn't officially declared his candidacy for Ohio Attorney General next year but it's a strong likelihood given the fact he's traveling the state speaking to groups such as local Republicans at its monthly lunch.

Yost said the death penalty process in Ohio is bogged down once cases get to federal court. The average time a person spends on death row is more than 13 years and more than 35 men have been on death row more than 20 years.

"Justice delayed is justice denied," he said. "We will push those appeals through to make sure the victims finally get justice." He vowed to beef up staff in the unit that fights appeals from death-row inmates.

Though this might seem like just a little local story, it provides a telling and important reminder that death penalty politics still have not changed all that much despite lots of capital repeal and reform movements around the nation. 

Ohio is not, of course, a southern state or a classic red state in which one might think that vocal support for the death penalty is a critical and classic way to garner votes and attention.  In addition, Ohio has had some innocence and lethal injection problems and has also executed more defendants that just about every state not named Texas in recent years.  And yet, despite all these forces, we still see a leading candidate for Attorney General actively campaigning that he will help speed up executions. 

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April 4, 2009 at 12:55 PM | Permalink


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How much control does an AG really have over the process? I thought most of the delay is waiting for courts to issue rulings, a time that no one but the judges involved have any control.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Apr 4, 2009 1:27:55 PM

Perhaps Dave Yost needs to be reminded of some recent history in Ohio:

After spending a quarter century in prison, including time on Ohio's death row, Timothy Howard and Gary Lemar James have been freed from prison and all charges against the men will be dropped. The men, who have maintained their innocence since their arrest in 1976, were freed, according to Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, "in the interest of justice." O'Brien stated, "The lesson to be learned is what I said in the letter I sent a year and a half ago. We don't want anybody in prison serving time for something they didn't do." The seven-year effort to exonerate Howard and James was led by their attorneys in conjunction with Centurion Ministries, a non-profit organization that has assisted in freeing more than 30 wrongfully convicted prisoners since 1983. Attorneys for Howard and James presented prosecutors with new evidence in the cases, including fingerprints, witness statements, and polygraph results that were not available during the original trial that resulted in the pair being sentenced to death. O'Brien acknowledged that dismissing the charges means that the city of Columbus has a 26-year-old unsolved bank robbery and murder. (Columbus Dispatch, July 16th & 18th, 2003).

By a vote of 8-2, the Ohio Parole Board has recommended that Governor Bob Taft grant clemency to Jerome Campbell, a death row inmate whom the Board believes was convicted by a jury that was unable to consider all of the evidence in his case. The Parole Board noted that Campbell's attorneys "presented credible evidence for the majority members of this board to question any sustained confidence or reliability in the jury's recommendation." Campbell is scheduled for execution on May 14. He maintains his innocence and states that DNA testing on his bloody tennis shoes supports his claim. The Board recommended that Campbell be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. This is the Board's first recommendation of clemency since Ohio resumed executions in 1999. (Associated Press, May 2, 2003)

Gary Beeman is the only person to have ever won exoneration at a second trial proceeding as his own attorney after being sentenced to death. A wrongfully convicted man, Gary spent three years on Ohio's death row. He was charged with aggravated murder in 1976 but always maintained that the prosecution’s main witness, an escaped prisoner, was the actual killer. Refusing to accept a reduced plea of manslaughter, Gary was convicted and sentenced to death by electrocution.

On death row, Gary prepared his own case. During the appellate process, he wrote the assignment of error that ultimately reversed his conviction, and represented himself on the state’s direct appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. On the day Gary was to be transported for the second trial, he refused to leave his typewriter and legal materials and was severely beaten by guards at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

Following an intensive investigation that involved the FBI, his legal materials were returned. Gary represented himself throughout seven months of pretrial hearings, often engaging in open court against the very lawyers once appointed to assist in his defense. He was awarded several court orders allowing nightly access to the county law library, access to his own personal law books and legal materials, three additional cells to hold those materials, an outside phone line directly to his cell, access to an interview room in the sheriff department’s offices, where he could conduct private interviews with his own witnesses, two private investigators who were given wide latitude, and reasonable expenses to conduct his defense.

Through the first two weeks of his five-week retrial, Gary personally cross-examined the state’s chief witness. On the third straight day of testifying, the chief witness was dismissed. Later that night, the witness was arrested for intoxication and placed in the city jail, where he confessed that he had committed the murder and framed Gary to gain his own release. After presenting testimony from the five additional witnesses who heard these admissions, and other key evidence which shed light on the state’s chief witness’ motivation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

Gary now lives in upstate New York, where he is active in the movement against the death penalty.

“It can happen to anybody,” Gary says. “Anybody can fall through the cracks. I want to have people take a serious look at the death penalty, what it’s about, what’s happening. Who are actually the ones being penalized? We need to stop executions and have a moratorium to take a look at it.”

Posted by: peter | Apr 4, 2009 1:37:34 PM

I am in favor of speeding them up as well. It shouldn't take more than two months total to get a reversal so that a convicted person can be freed.

I think we all agree about this.

Posted by: S.cotus | Apr 4, 2009 1:57:04 PM

With One-Two-Three Violent Offenses-Dead, the execution could be immediately after the reading of the verdict. Take him to the basement and shoot him in the head. Cart him off from the loading dock of the courthouse. If the conviction is wrong, you have executed a violent bad guy and prevented 1000's of victimizations over the lifetime of the lawyer client, based on the first two convictions.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 4, 2009 10:15:22 PM

Some people, Doug, actually believe that a well-enforced capital punishment regime deters murder and saves lives. Thus, it is not surprising that in the face of the liberal outrage du jour, some politicians want a vigorously enforced death penalty.

The latest stay (Brett Hartman) is a joke.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 5, 2009 12:25:23 PM

Federalist wrote: "Some people, Doug, actually believe that a well-enforced capital punishment regime deters murder and saves lives."

And that may or may not be true, but if it is true, it--by the very best estimates--only marginally saves lives. Decreasing rampant income and wealth inequality in the society would save many more lives. An egalitarian society would have an extremely low rate of crime. What this means is that the state homicide proponent who vigorously opposes public policies to decrease inequality (e.g., a member of the Federalist Society) is simply disingenuous when he rests his support for state killing on saving lives. And when he asks us to consider the victims, he is merely exploiting them. What this proponent of state homicide really wants--his true agenda--is to satisfy his own base desire to kill.

Posted by: DK | Apr 5, 2009 1:18:26 PM

Does Mr. Yost put a pricetage on his proposal to speed up appeals?

bruce cunningham

Posted by: bruce cunningham | Apr 5, 2009 3:07:34 PM

The lawyer is disingenuous stymying the death penalty, and claiming it is not effective. There is zero evidence that income disparity causes crime. Everyone was poor in Fallujah, where there was nothing but crime. There are great income disparities in Cairo, where a Koran based criminal law is in effect. And when the lawyer asks for more funds to speed things up, it shows, the client is a pretext for a huge, business, and permanent indoor jobs.

Here is a discussion of the dose-response curve, an effect found true in all remedies including legal ones. The lawyer is so irresponsible, he fails to work out what dose does not work, what dose works, and what dose is poisonous for each remedy.


You may be a rent seeking lawyer. Nevertheless, conclusory pronouncements to rob the productive and to appease the parasite the lawyer has as a client, have no validity.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 5, 2009 3:51:29 PM

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