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July 21, 2009

Ohio — aka the northern Texas — executes again

As detailed in this AP article, Ohio executed another multiple murderer this morning.  This was Ohio's third execution in 2009 and its twenty-third execution since 2004.  With respect to the death penalty, I think it is fair and appropriate to now call Ohio the Texas of the north: except for a few states in the south, Ohio has had executed many, many more killers than any other state in recent years.

To date, I have seen relatively few academics or leading public policy groups or even hard-core abolitionists making a big deal about the fact that Ohio has become of leading modern death penalty state.  My cynical explanation would be that Ohio's experience with the death penalty does not easily or effectively fit into certain anti-death-penalty narratives often stressed by academics and public policy groups and abolitionists, Ohio's recent experiences with capital punishment is often ignored rather than engaged.

Relatedly, though the economic costs of the death penalty were getting a lo of attention earlier this year, I am not aware of any discussion within Ohio to lay off the death penalty during the state's recent pitched battle over a huge budget deficit.  Though states still seem to be tightening their belts, this summer I am noticing less and less serious talk lately about the economics of capital punishment.

Some recent related posts:

UPDATE:  This AP story on this execution notes it has the honor of being "the 1,000th lethal injection in the U.S. since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976."  This round number, in turn, has apparently prompted an internation response:

According to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., Keene's was the 1,171st execution — and the 1,000th by lethal injection — since the U.S. reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The European Union presidency, currently held by Sweden, released a statement noting the number and calling on the U.S. to halt executions, pending the abolition of the death penalty. "The European Union is opposed to the use of capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances," the statement said. "We believe that the abolition of the death penalty is essential to protect human dignity, and to the progressive development of human rights."

July 21, 2009 at 11:47 AM | Permalink


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With respect to costs, the costs to get the three executed and the eight or so in the hopper have long been spent. Now it's a matter of finishing the job. Keene, today's waste of air, was what, 36. What would be the cost of keeping him incarcerated for forty-odd years? Likely a lot more than it cost to get him to the "big jab".

As executions go up, the per unit cost of them goes down. It's almost certain that the death penalty in Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma have resulted in a net savings of taxpayer money (not to mention the utter inability of these guys to kill a prison guard etc.)

I am also not sure that Ohio deserves the "northern Texas" appellation. Perhaps when Ohio hits 75 executions, we can talk.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 21, 2009 12:06:41 PM

Whatever, another one bites the dust.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 21, 2009 12:34:12 PM

As executions go up, the per unit cost of them goes down. It's almost certain that the death penalty in Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma have resulted in a net savings of taxpayer money...

Although I would agree that the cost per unit goes down as executions increase, what is the basis for your “almost certain” taxpayer savings?

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jul 21, 2009 2:45:34 PM

Ohio has become a leading modern death penalty state because: (1) the Ohio Supreme Court does not find much "harmful" error; (2) AEDPA makes it more difficult to obtain relief; and (3)the makeup of the Sixth Circuit has moved decidedly right to the point that death penalty en banc cases split exactly down party lines.

Posted by: yo dog | Jul 21, 2009 2:58:38 PM

Because, marc, none of the anti-crowd ever cites Virginia, Texas or Oklahoma in their cost studies. Seems to me that the dog hasn't barked.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 21, 2009 2:59:51 PM

You don't see the anti-crowd arguing those states. QED.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 21, 2009 3:06:56 PM

Your explanation isn't cynical; it is realistic. Ohio doesn't fit the profile that the anti side is trying to create -- painting the death penalty as a Southern phenomenon and therefore (in their view) presumptively racist. I remember vividly when California was about to carry out its first post-Furman execution in 1992, there was near hysteria on the anti side because the image of California was the diametric opposite of the image they wanted of death penalty states. Stopping executions here became a top priority, and regrettably one temporarily achieved.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jul 21, 2009 4:41:36 PM

Ohio also has a rather large death row--181 killers (by DPIC's count).

Posted by: federalist | Jul 21, 2009 5:01:32 PM

The European Union has no condemnation for the extra-judicial execution of murder victims. Their big government ideology sees the murderer as a job creation source, and no one may even verbally criticize the murderer. Their pro-criminal collaborationism is sickening.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 21, 2009 6:27:20 PM

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