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April 1, 2010

The latest data on the shrinking death row in Ohio

This article from the Columbus Dispatch, which is headlined "Ohio's Death Row growing smaller," details that Ohio's recent execution successes has helped reduce the size of the state's death row. Here are some of the numbers:

Anthony Kirkland of Cincinnati became the first person sentenced to death in Ohio this year yesterday for the murder of two teenage girls. Only one person was sentenced to death in Ohio all of last year.

The Capital Crimes Annual Report being released today by Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray showed that as of Dec. 31, there were 163 pending death sentences, including two inmates who have two apiece and one who is imprisoned out of state.

That means Ohio's Death Row, which once held 204 people, was down to 160 residents, including one woman. It's certain to get smaller. Ohio has executed three men already this year, and an execution is scheduled every month through October. That would be 10 executions in a single year, surpassing 2004, when seven men were put to death....

About 51 percent of the inmates sentenced to death are black, with 44 percent white and 4 percent other races. The average age is 46 and the average time on Death Row is 141/2 years, the report said.

Eight people left Death Row last year: five were executed, one (Jeffrey Hill of Hamilton County) had his sentence commuted, one was scheduled for resentencing and one was judged mentally retarded and his sentence was commuted to life in prison.

In this post yesterday, I suggested that the number of death sentences are rising in California during its de facto moratorium on executions because California jurors in capital cases (justifiably) consider their vote for death to be largely symbolic with little or no practical consequence on the likely fate of the defendant they condemn.  I think these Ohio data reflect the other side of this coin: the frequency of executions in Ohio in recent years, Ohio jurors in capital cases (justifiably) consider their vote for death to be very consequential and thus it seems these jurors are being especially cautious when decided who should be condemned to die.

April 1, 2010 at 08:42 AM | Permalink


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Interesting theory -- making the specter of execution at the hands of the state more real induces capital jurors to apply it more sparingly (presumably, to the 'worst of the worst'...).

This shares some DNA with the theory that televising executions on C-Span ("pulling back the curtain" on the process) would lead to abolition by forcing the public to examine the practice being conducted in its name.

On the other hand, if capital jurors needed some help taking the process seriously, isn't that in itself a substantial indictment of the system?

Posted by: Anon | Apr 1, 2010 12:58:51 PM

Given that the rate of death-sentencing has gone down all over the country at the same time this seems like Ohio is simply part of the national trend rather than anything having to do with more executions.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Apr 1, 2010 2:40:30 PM

Life without parole ("LWOP") is why death sentences are down in Ohio. When the choice is life or death the verdict can be internalized by a captial juror as very consequential. When the choice is life, death or LWOP, LWOP is an easy verdict because the defendant lives --their individual votes aren't taking a life and the state gets its verdict. LWOP is civil death and death well is death. Which type of death penalty is worse?

Posted by: K | Apr 1, 2010 8:40:11 PM

The death penalty is worse than LWOP. Otherwise, there wouldn't be so few "volunteers".

Posted by: Alpino | Apr 2, 2010 10:29:30 PM

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