Things are relatively quiet for Jeffrey Wogenstahl on Ohio’s death row at the moment. This should be celebrated. It was not long ago that Ohio was second only to Texas in carrying out executions; but during the two years of 2015 and 2016 there will have been no state administered deaths. There have also been fewer death sentences in the state: these have dropped by 77% since 2010, with a corresponding 92% rise in sentences of life without the possibility of parole in the same period. And if Ohioans are asked which sentence they prefer for people convicted of murder, a majority now prefer life without parole over the death penalty.
Such trends mirror a national move away from the death penalty and executions. The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) 2015 Year End report headlines:
“Fewest Executions, fewest death sentences and fewest states employing the death penalty in decades.”
To be sure, Ohio is still trying to procure its named execution drug, sodium thiopental, but its attempts are becoming more and more desperate. No compounding pharmacy has been willing to provide the drug, despite a controversial law, passed by the Ohio General Assembly a year ago, which shrouds execution personnel and procedures in secrecy. Now Ohio officials have hired an attorney at FDAImports.com to help them navigate the law regarding drug importation. Doug Berman, a death-penalty expert, believes Ohio is unlikely to gain approval in the foreseeable future. He adds:
“they’re kind of desperate for any means possible to discharge what they see as their obligations under existing law.”
Last year a Republican State Rep, Niraj Antani, joined Democrat Nickie Antonio in trying to abolish the death penalty in Ohio. Alongside Antonio’s “familiar — and persuasive — points about a system broken beyond repair” is Antani’s “conservative case for repealing the death penalty”. Antani’s frustration at the government’s presumption that it will not make errors when administering the death penalty may appeal to other Republicans, who form the majority in Ohio. When Jeff’s case comes to their attention the case for abolition will be strengthened: only a broken and error-ridden system could process his highly questionable case to result in lengthy incarceration and an execution date.
Thus, as 2015 turned to 2016, there were hopeful signs that Ohio may before too long take note of its citizens’ wishes. We are hopeful that it will soon give up the struggle to find drugs and finally abolish the death penalty.