Optimism in Ohio

The last few months have seen Ohio edging ever closer to repealing the death penalty. In December Governor DeWine remarked,
 “Lethal injection appears to us to be impossible from a practical point of view today.” Executions had then been on hold for nearly 2 years, after a judge labelled Ohio’s lethal injection protocol “cruel and unusual punishment”; and drug companies effectively halted the flow of drugs for executions.

January saw the impact of Ohio’s death penalty becoming more limited, with the signing into law of House Bill 136. This prohibits imposing or carrying out the death penalty on people whose severe mental illness at the time of the offense significantly impaired their ability to “appreciate the nature, consequences or wrongfulness” of their conduct. Mental health and criminal justice reform advocates welcomed the move, calling it “an important step forward in recognizing mental illness and breaking through years of stigma.”

Also in January we learnt from a poll that a majority of Ohioans – nearly 60% – now support replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. The poll results will hearten the bipartisan coalition of politicians who are now calling for capital punishment in Ohio to be repealed.

The announcement of the politicians’ campaign coincided with the news that in Ohio there is a shockingly high rate of wrongful convictions compared with even the high rate in the USA as a whole (in Ohio there has been one exoneration for every five executions, as opposed to one exoneration for every eight executions in the country as a whole).

Our outrage at the statistics can only be intensified by the near certainty that innocent people must have been executed; indeed, the US constitution does not forbid this. And we know there are others, like Jeffrey Wogenstahl, on death row now, despite having strong claims of innocence.

The consistent direction of travel towards abolition should give us all hope. Let us hope that more politicians will heed public opinion and vote to end Ohio’s death penalty. That vote cannot come too soon.

This entry was posted in capital punishment, criminal justice, death penalty, Jeffrey Wogenstahl, Ohio, USA and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.