Four times in the last decade Ohio’s Democrat Senator Nickie Antonio has sponsored a bill to abolish the death penalty in the state, without success.
This year feels different.
With executions halted because lethal injection drugs are unobtainable, pressure is building for lawmakers to find a solution that avoids the death penalty altogether.
Several Republicans are amongst those already supporting Senator Antonio’s bill. The national network known as Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty has spotted its opportunity: it is now targeting Ohio, explaining why the death penalty is incompatible with conservative views on religion, limiting taxpayer expense and restricting the power of government. And for the first time in its history the Columbus Dispatch, an important conservative-leaning Ohio newspaper, has called on lawmakers to end capital punishment in the state.
Others condemn the death penalty’s societal flaws. Senator Antonio herself cites its “disparities across economic and racial lines” and its failure to deter violent crime.” A further objection is the burden that weighs on prison staff when a prisoner is killed by the state. As Ohio’s Governor, Governor DeWine, has reminded us: “This is a tough, tough thing for the people who work at the Department of Corrections.”
And always, as we know well from Jeffrey Wogenstahl’s case, there is the possibility of executing an innocent person.
This may not yet be the end of the road for capital punishment in Ohio – there will always be some opposition to change. But perhaps now enough voices are being raised for change to be considered. We hope those voices are heard.