Do they deserve to kill?

Warren Keith Henness is scheduled to be executed in Ohio on Wednesday, February 13, 2019. He claims innocence of the murder of which he was convicted, but is seeking only to have his death sentence commuted to incarceration, without death. 

Many of those who have known Hennes on Ohio’s death row – inmates and staff alike – have confirmed that he would contribute well to any prison system, with his remarkable skills in supporting other inmates and negotiating peaceful outcomes between them at times when tempers are frayed. He has no history of violence, either before or after his conviction.

The State’s theory in Henness’s case rested heavily on the testimony of two witnesses, one of whom was Henness’s wife. Both witnesses were drug addicts – unreliable and motivated to lie; both were readily impeachable. Fingerprints and blood samples from the crime scene did not match Henness. The State destroyed potentially exonerating evidence from that scene. A recent investigation concluded that crime-scene evidence was inconsistent with the State’s theory of the case.

Henness’s legal representation at trial was almost non-existent; the post-conviction petition filed on his behalf failed to address this. The crime of which Henness was convicted was not a so-called “worst-of-the-worst” murder for which Ohio permits the death penalty.

Despite the weight of evidence in his favor, the Ohio Adult Parole Authority has rejected Henness’s plea for clemency. His only remaining hope is that the new Ohio Governor, Gov. Mike DeWine, may recognize the disturbing flaws in his case and recommend clemency.

Bryan Stevenson’s observation comes to mind in Henness’s case:
“The death penalty is not about whether people deserve to die for the crimes they commit. The real question of capital punishment in this country is, Do we deserve to kill?”* 

Do staff in Ohio really deserve to undergo the murderous task of killing the peace-loving Henness? Will they deserve the trauma that lies ahead of them as a result of that killing?

Of course not. If not for Henness, then for the potential killers, this execution should be stopped.†

*From Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Scribe Publications, 2015.  Page 313. Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.

†Please sign the petition asking Governor DeWine to stop the execution of
Warren “Keith” Henness. 

Update: Governor DeWine has ordered a reprieve of execution for Warren Keith Henness until September 12, 2019, following increased concerns about the effects of one of the drugs scheduled to be used for the execution. Governor DeWine has also ordered a review of Ohio’s options for execution drugs.

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