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March 8, 2015

"Questions raised about the death penalty in Ohio"

Death-penalty-art1-gpu10obcu-10308-gfxdeathpenaltychart-epsThe title of this post is the headline of this lengthy front-page article appearing today in my own home-town Columbus Dispatch.  The subheading of the piece summarizes its themes: "Dozens of inmates sentenced to die have been removed from Death Row in the past 12 years. Add that to botched executions and lingering questions about lethal-injection drugs, and it raises questions about the death penalty in Ohio." Here is how the extended article gets started:

The Cincinnati man had ordered his last meal and was going to be executed the next day when the governor spared his life largely because the DNA on his shoes did not match the blood of the victim.

A Cleveland man, originally sentenced to Death Row, was freed from prison after serving nearly 40 years when a witness confessed that he lied at the original trial about seeing the killing.

An Akron man was sentenced to die but spared from execution after officials confirmed that he was mentally disabled and had the intellect of a second-grader.

In the wake of such cases and other questions about the death penalty, key Ohio lawmakers say that while there’s no movement to eliminate capital punishment from Ohio’s criminal-justice books, some have proposed changes in the law.

Ohio has removed 20 inmates from Death Row since 2003 because investigations or evidence raised questions about their guilt, they were found to be mentally disabled or governors granted them clemency.

Another five men, who were removed from Death Row in the 1970s when Ohio abolished the death penalty for a short period, have been exonerated and released during the past 12 years. There were another 28 men spared from execution during the same period whose cases involved constitutional violations and procedural issues.

All of this has contributed to a slowdown in executions. Last year, for example, 35 people were executed across the U.S., the lowest number in 20 years. And while Ohio has executed 53 inmates since 1999 — an average of slightly more than three a year — it put to death only four in the past two years. The next execution is set for January 2016.

This all raises issues that should be addressed by the legislature, said Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, but are not reasons to kill the death penalty. “I won’t say never, but right now there is no way (abolishing it) is going to happen,” Seitz said. “But if we’re going to retain the death penalty, and I’m firmly committed to its retention, we ought to take away most of the serious objections.”

Lawmakers are poised to introduce new laws in the next few weeks. Seitz and Sen. Sandra Williams, D-Cleveland, are working on four bills incorporating 14 of the 56 recommendations made by the Ohio Supreme Court Death Penalty Task Force in April 2014. The bills focus on significant recommendations: preventing execution of seriously mentally disabled inmates; establishing a statewide indigent death-penalty litigation fund in the Ohio Public Defender’s office; requiring certification for coroner’s offices and crime labs, and prohibiting convictions based solely on uncorroborated information from a jailhouse informant.

Seitz said he expects “tough sledding” in the legislative debate, adding that it’s too soon to predict whether any of the bills will become law. But he was clear that the debate likely won’t include ending executions because a majority of state lawmakers support the death penalty.

March 8, 2015 at 09:42 PM | Permalink


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When lawyers dominate a branch of government, death penalty legislation goes only in one direction. Just a bunch of pro-criminal rent seekers running their con.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 8, 2015 10:09:46 PM

These are the sort of things that lead people -- rationally in my view -- to be loathe to execute before dealing with every possible problem. This includes those who are not "abolitionists" only but those who support the death penalty but warily. And, leads few states to prioritize. The result is some bad claims clog things, but enough good ones are present to make "better safe than sorry" principles kick in.

Again, not only abolitionists or as one person would say "Democrats" feel this way.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 9, 2015 8:28:17 AM

Joe. Over and over. You are like Lib, repeated a rebutted orthodoxy. You rebutted Lib yourself by correcting his version of the Sixth Commandment, which is Thy Shall not Murder, the unlawful taking of a human life.

So, please, bringing up the argument of false conviction against the death penalty. While some on death row have been exonerated, no has been executed who later proved to be innocent. Assume that 20% of people executed are innocent victims of a faulty system. That would represent a dozen people. I support compensating their estates for a wrongful death claim.

Now, stop al transportation because it kills 30,000 people, including a 1000 pedestrians. So stop all walking as well. Stop medical care, baseball, car mechanics, mining, and all other human activity that has resulted in a death. The false conviction and execution of someone is a reason to investigate each, and to correct the likely dozen factors that clustered around one person, in that time, and space, to result in that catastrophic failure of the legal system. Then correct each factor, at the system level.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 9, 2015 4:55:21 PM

"While some on death row have been exonerated, no has been executed who later proved to be innocent."

The second part has been disputed [particularly since "innocent" here would include not being guilty enough to correctly been given not just punishment, but capital punishment -- many are jailed for term of years for killing but are not "guilty" enough to be executed] and the first includes people who would not have been caught if the more strict rules some wish to apply would have been in place.

There is the "death row" qualifier too -- since only a fraction of murderers are sentenced to die, some who have been exonerated weren't on death row. If some for the death penalty had their druthers, more people would be on death row and more quickly killed. Some false positives caught would likely not be.

"Transportation" unlike the death penalty does not involve the state killing people most of the time & on cost/benefit ratios, it is beneficial to transport things as compared to the "benefit" of executing a small subset of murderers -- unlike transportation etc., many states (de facto or by law) don't have the death penalty as do most countries w/o there being an apparent net problem.

Anyway, "possible problem" means problems pursuant to the safeguards set up. Not every imaginable problem in existence. And, the fact holds -- in death penalty states, it is reasonably felt, especially given the problems that are found (as discussed by various sources), the we have to be extra careful. This leads to major bottlenecks. These bottlenecks are subject to complaints but they rose for a reason.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 9, 2015 5:38:59 PM

Transportation: Are you kidding? I did not include the million horrific injuries from crushing, slicing, and dicing of body parts of people not anesthetized. OK. Medical care. Likely kills 100,000 people by medical error.

If I kill a prisoner, I prevent a lifetime of 200 felonies a year. If I do so at age 20, that is 10000 felonies. If you would pay me $1000 to not pistol whip you and carjack you, leaving fallen on the pavement, the value is $10 million. What car trip risking horrific injuries and death is worth $10 million? That is the benefit of killing a violent repeat offender. We have also said, no specialization. Shoplifter is a serial killer. Serial killer is a shoplifter. So what would you pay to not have me, a carjacker, not murder 20 people in the prime of life? Would it be more than $1000? You say, marijuana sales. Well try to sell some of the same in the guy's territory, then interview him with absolute immunity, ask how many he has killed to protect turf.

The risk of a single car trip is far less valuable than the risk of a rare false execution. And I have supported compensation to the estate. In 123D, the innocent guy is a bad guy anyway, so the benefit does not change if innocent of the third violent offense.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 9, 2015 6:21:36 PM

If every year for the past 100 years, thousands of people have died in crashes. There is knowledge, and the certainty and foreseeability of planetary orbits in the deaths from transportation. So the state by its knowledge, and the certainty, has decided to allow the deaths of thousands of people randomly chosen, many entirely innocent of any wrongdoing or even carelessness, executed by butchery, not by lethal injection. Its refusal to stop all transportation, including walking which kills 1000 people, is the state sponsored death penalty, as sure as the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.

And all for rent seeking. The motive is in bad faith because it is covering it up and lying, about the real objection to the death penalty. If the death penalty ends crime, lawyers get unemployed. That the sole reason for these theatrics.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 9, 2015 8:15:17 PM

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