Death penalty ban supporters make pitch to Ohio state senators
TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Ohio hasn’t carried out an execution since Gov. Mike DeWine took office and there are none on the calendar this year. Still, the death penalty is legal in the state, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers hope there is enough support this year to make Ohio the 24th state to ban the punishment.
“The death penalty is the most inefficient government program in existence in Ohio today,” said Ohio Public Defender Tim Young.
He was among those who testified in support of SB 103 Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He cited a laundry list of statistics backing up his claims that the death penalty is outdated and inefficient. Many are also found in a report issued by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost earlier this year that spells out the issues with the state’s system.
“The death penalty is not about justice anymore,” Young said. “It’s about vengeance - state-sponsored vengeance. I know it was never intended that way, but that’s where we’ve come to in terms of how we carry it out.”
The average time someone spends on death row in Ohio is 17 years. In the last 40 years, Ohio has issued 340 death sentences, yet just one out of every six has been executed. 21 had their sentences commuted to something less than the death penalty.
“In short, Ohio imposes death sentences on perpetrators of brutal and revolting murders, then spends years debating, reviewing, appealing and failing to act on those decisions,” the Executive Summary of the report says.
Those who spoke against the death penalty Wednesday also included Ohio faith leaders.
“We look forward to the day when the death penalty is only remembered as a part of Ohio’s history,” said Jim Tobin, the associate director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio.
Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr., the executive director of the Ohio Council of Churches, said family members of murder victims are justified to have feelings of “rage and anger” over the killing of their loved ones.
He also falls into that category. But, he said the death penalty is not the answer.
“Executions only exacerbate the cycle of death as they inflict reputational damage onto the state and erode its moral credibility and sense of integrity,” Sullivan said. “For it is a hollow instrument of death that offers no justice, no healing, no wholeness, and no redemption.”
Jonathan Mann, the vice-chair of Ohioans to Stop Executions, also testified Wednesday and shared his personal experience with the death penalty process.
His dad was murdered in 2017. He struggled to help pay for his funeral and was faced with challenges over the next two years to cope with his death.
“And then the legal system offered up a fresh version of hell,” Mann said.
He said the prosecutor in the case pursued the death penalty, but Mann believed he was only doing so to look “tough on crime, bolster his political career, and generate a steam of good press.”
“The pain of having to wade through the death penalty case was high,” Mann said. “No one explains how there are people who have been on death row for decades awaiting execution. They don’t talk about the pain we face with years of appeals, reliving the horror over and over. We’re still left with the void that someone that we cared about is gone.
“While the person that caused our pain may eventually go away too, it doesn’t fill the hole in our hearts.”
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