Ohio still adding to Death Row population

april 2, 2014

In the past decade, Ohio’s Death Row has shrunk by one-third, from 209 to 139.

But a new state report shows that the courts continue to sentence people to death at the same time the process of lethal injection is mired in legal controversy.

The 2013 Capital Crimes Report issued yesterday by Attorney General Mike DeWine says 12 executions are scheduled in the next two years, with four more awaiting the setting of death dates. Among those scheduled are three from Franklin County: Warren Henness (Jan. 7), Alva Campbell (July 7, 2015), and Kareem Jackson (Jan. 21, 2016).

Ohio has carried out 54 executions since 1999, including three last year, the same as in 2012.

The annual status report on capital punishment in Ohio, which covers calendar year 2013, does not mention the problems during the Jan. 16, 2014, execution of Dennis McGuire when he gasped, choked and struggled for more than 10 minutes before succumbing to a two-drug combination never before used in a U.S. execution.

A lawsuit has been filed by McGuire’s two children, and the drug issue prompted Gov. John Kasich to push back the scheduled March 19 execution of Gregory Lott until November.

The next scheduled execution is Arthur Tyler of Cuyahoga County on May 28.

DeWine’s report says 316 people have been sentenced to death in Ohio since 1981, when capital punishment was restored after being overturned as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The report cites 18 gubernatorial commutations of death sentences: four by Kasich, five by Gov. Ted Strickland, one by Gov. Bob Taft and eight by Gov. Richard F. Celeste.

In all, 26 convicted killers have died in prison, including Billy Slagle of Cleveland, who committed suicide on Death Row on Aug. 4, 2013.

DeWine reported that 74 capital-punishment sentences were removed by the courts, and six, including Donna Roberts, the only woman currently sentenced to death in Ohio, are facing resentencing.

There have been 34 whites and 19 blacks executed, all males. They spent an average of 16.6 years in prison before being executed.

Of their 85 victims, 65 were adults and 19 were children. White victims outnumbered blacks 2-1.

For the first time this year, a group opposed to the death penalty issued its own report in response to the official state document. Ohioans to Stop Executions concludes, “While Ohio’s overall use of the death penalty is slowing, it has become clearer than ever before that the race of the victim and location of the crime are the most-accurate predictors of death sentences in the Buckeye State.”

The group said 40 percent of death sentences originate in Cuyahoga County. Ohio prosecutors filed 21 capital-murder indictments last year, a 28 percent drop from 2012, as sentences of life without the possibility of parole became more prevalent.

The full state report can be found online at http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Files/Publications/Publications-for-Law-Enforcement/Capital-Crimes-Annual-Reports/2013-Capital-Crimes-Annual-Report.

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