The Governor of Ohio, Governor Kasich, supports the death penalty because he feels that it provides justice and closure to the grieving families of murder victims.*
Perhaps he should talk to Melinda Dawson†, whose mother was brutally murdered in Barberton, Ohio in 1998. Along with many other family members of murder victims, she sees things quite differently. They have experienced the torture of waiting for finality during years of appeals, without experiencing any feeling of justice or closure. Dawson believes that prosecutors use the death penalty for political gain only: she feels they take advantage of grieving families’ vulnerability to promise that an execution will bring them comfort. Often it does not.
Bud Welch, whose daughter was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, speaks with anguish about the execution of his daughter’s murderer:
“We took Tim McVeigh from his cage and we killed him and there was nothing about that process that brought me any peace.”
He is not alone. Immediately after that bombing most of the victims’ families and survivors demanded the death penalty for those responsible; but now most of them believe it was a mistake.
Meanwhile, new victims are created by executions, like the family of Lester Bower, who was executed in Texas on Wednesday despite huge doubts about his guilt. His family looked utterly crushed, struggling to walk as they left the execution building. Such a scene may well become a monthly event in Ohio from next January, when executions are due to recommence.
As in Texas, some of the Ohio families will be mourning innocent men. Terry Collins‡, former Director of the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, is clear:
“Statistical data would say that there’s a good probability of that.”
Cases like Jeffrey Wogenstahl’s, with its extensive flaws, support this claim. Jeff’s claim of innocence has a great deal to back it up; yet Jeff has an execution date.
Governor Kasich’s spiritual leader, Pope Francis, has said:
“It is impossible to imagine that States today fail to employ a means other than capital punishment to protect the lives of other people from the unjust aggressor.”
We urge Governor Kasich to listen.