Ohio officials call for review of death row cases

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Several high-ranking officials in Ohio are calling for a comprehensive review of all death-row cases - and a possible a moratorium on executions while that review's carried out.

Former Attorney General Jim Petro said an independent task force should examine the cases of inmates on death row and that the state should halt executions in the meantime, according to The Columbus Dispatch. "We should show restraint, caution and diligence with these cases," said Petro, who supports the death penalty. "DNA has opened a lot of people's eyes with what it can do. When you are talking about death, you can't afford to make even one mistake."

Another official - state Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer - said the state needs to look at "whether or not death is the appropriate penalty." Pfeifer was one of three Republican state senators who brought back the state's death-penalty law in 1981 after the old law was declared unconstitutional.

These questions about the death penalty come as Ohio's on pace for a record number of executions this year, including one scheduled for Tuesday. "Before the next 10 to 15 executions occur in Ohio, they ought to be sure that all the protective mechanisms are in place," said Richard Dieter, who heads the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

Attorney General Richard Cordray, on the other hand, said he hasn't seen anything to justify a moratorium of executions in Ohio. "I'm confident so far, we haven't had any miscarriages of justice on my watch," Cordray said. Gov. Ted Strickland doesn't support an additional review either. "I would caution against setting up sort of an extra-judicial process to replace what is a very understood and rigorous approach to these matters," he said.

Strickland and Cordray said Tuesday that DNA testing should be done on evidence collected in the cases of seven men who have served time in Ohio prisons, including one man - Tyrone Noling - who is currently on death row. Noling was convicted in 1996 of shooting an elderly couple to death in their home.

The governor also said his office is looking closely at the case of 46-year-old Kevin Keith, who is scheduled to be executed in September. His clemency hearing is slated for Wednesday.

"It has circumstances that I find troubling," Strickland said of Keith's case. Keith has claimed he's innocent. He was convicted of fatally shooting three people.

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