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July 18, 2023

A sign of the capital times?: Buckeye State marks five years without any executions

This local article, headlined "Ohio’s death penalty: Today marks five years since last inmate executed," notes a notable temporal landmark is Ohio's fascinating history with capital punishment.  Here are the details:

Inmate Robert Van Hook was executed at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville on July 18, 2018.  An inmate has not been put to death in Ohio since.

Robin Maher, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., said the trend will likely continue.  “Ohio was once a pretty prolific executioner, so this is a real change,” she said....

Van Hook’s execution took place more than 30 years after he stabbed a man to death in Cincinnati after meeting him at a bar.  The 58-year-old had no remaining appeals, and Republican Gov. John Kasich rejected his request for clemency without comment.  At the time of the killing, Van Hook was suffering from long-term effects of untreated mental, physical and sexual abuse as a child and was depressed that his life seemed to be falling apart, his attorneys argued.

Between 1976 and 2018, what Maher refers to as the “modern era of the death penalty,” 56 inmates were executed in Ohio.  Currently, 123 inmates sit on Ohio’s death row, making it the sixth largest in the country, according to the Death Penalty Information Center....

Ohio joins the ranks of the majority of states who have either abolished the death penalty or have the option but have not used it in five years, or in most cases, even longer. Arkansas also has not used the death penalty in five years. Nebraska will join the list in August....

In Ohio, there are a number of reasons for the decline in executions, including access to the drugs used. “Ohio has been informed by drug companies that if their products are used in executions in Ohio, those same products will be withheld from all state agencies, including state-run hospitals and medical facilities,” according to a statement from the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. This effectively eliminates those companies as sources for the prison system to obtain drugs listed in the execution protocol.

As some readers may know, there has been robust litigation over execution protocols in the Buckeye State, and some extraordinary work by defense attorneys in this litigation seemed to have contributed to some Ohio leaders being content with a de facto moratorium on executions.  Because Governor Mike DeWine (and perhaps other state leaders) seem generally disinclined to try to get the state's machinery of death back in action, I would predict that the state is unlikely to have an execution before 2027.  But the death penalty has always been unpredictable in the state, and so I am disinclined to make any firm assertions about what the capital future holds.

July 18, 2023 at 06:47 PM | Permalink


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