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February 26, 2022

New poll indicates considerable support for death penalty repeal among Ohio GOP legislators

I have now lived and worked as a law professor in Ohio for almost 25 years, and throughout all these years the state's implementation of its capital punishment systems has been always dynamic and often dysfunctional. Though there has not been an execution in Ohio since Mike DeWine became the state's governor in 2019, this DPIC page highlights that Ohio has had more executions in the modern death penalty era than more than a half-dozen southern capital states (not even counting Ohio's botched 2009 effort to execute Romell Broom).  Also, as this DPIC page details, Ohio also has the sixth largest death row in the nation, as well as a remarkable number of pending death warrants that are repeatedly getting stayed by Gov DeWine due to concerns about Ohio's lethal injection methods.

I highlight all this background because it helps details why I think it would be quite a big deal as a matter of policy for Ohio to move away from capital punishment.  And, thanks to a helpful email, I saw a notable recent new poll of Ohio legislators indicating that repeal of the death penalty in Ohio might also really be possible as a matter of politics.  Notably, there has been a considerable legislative push in recent years for repeal, and next week has scheduled a hearing on Ohio House Bill 183, a bill expressly written to "abolish the death penalty."

Notably, as of this writing, this death penalty repeal bill has 25 sponsors.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of the sponsors are Democrats, but more than a few in hat group are Republicans.  And, perhaps surprisingly, this new Gongwer News Service poll of Ohio state legislators suggests there may be quite considerable support among Ohio GOP legislators for ending capital punishment.  Specifically, the poll asked "Should Ohio eliminate the death penalty?" and among Republicans legislators who responded 46% said "Yes" only 39% said "No" and 14% said "Undecided."

Critically, this new poll only had 44 respondents, which is just a third of all the members of the Ohio General Assembly, and I do not believe there is any way to tell how representative the Republicans respondents to the poll are.  Still, assuming a majority of Democratic legislators in Ohio are prepared to support death penalty repeal, there would really only need to be a sizable minority of GOP members of Ohio General Assembly to favor abolition to have a real chance to get a death penalty repeal bill to the desk of Governor DeWine.  I am still quite disinclined to think repeal will happen soon in Ohio, but this poll certainly leads me to now think the possibility is not so far-fetched.

February 26, 2022 at 11:59 AM | Permalink


Average Americans are mostly unaware that among First World countries, only the United States and Japan (because the U.S. gave them a death penalty when we occupied their country after World War II) still have a Death penalty. Many First World countries did away with their Death Penalties decades ago and consider the American practices barbaric. Once 26 states have no death penalty, someone will take a case up to the U. S. Supreme Court, which will find the death penalty unConstutional (based upon evolving standards of decency and community values) and outlaw it across America.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Feb 27, 2022 2:31:38 PM

Jim Gormley --

I'm all for evolving standards of decency SO LONG AS THEY ARE DEFINED BY THE PEOPLE rather than the Robed Masters. There's a reason the Founders did not include "evolving standards" language in the Constitution, and instead it was invented 160 years later by judges to give themselves more power.

Capital punishment is expressly contemplated by the language of the Constitution and therefore can hardly be unconstitutional. In addition, the Court held point-blank in Glossip that "the death penalty is constitutional." So if precedent is to be honored -- something I'm hearing quite loudly from liberals just now -- the issue is settled law going forward, just as Justice Kagan said at her confirmation hearing.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 27, 2022 3:05:39 PM

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