The push to end Ohio's death penalty
Two local lawmakers from opposing parties are united in seeking to abolish Ohio's death penalty.
- Sens. Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester) and Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) say it's time to end the practice in favor of lifetime prison sentences.
Why it matters: Abolishing the death penalty would spare the lives of 10 prisoners from Franklin County and more than 100 others waiting on Ohio's death row.
- The policy is currently under an unofficial moratorium, as the state lacks supply of the drugs used for lethal injections.
What's happening: A small, but growing faction of lawmakers has repeatedly tried to end the practice over the past decade.
- The legislative momentum comes as the number of people executed statewide has steadily declined, an Axios review finds.
- Once an issue backed solely by Democrats, there is now increasing support from Republicans — a needed trend if abolishment is to pass a GOP-heavy Statehouse.
State of play: Ohio went nearly 40 years between executions before resuming the death penalty in 1999 under then-Gov. Bob Taft.
- The state has executed 56 people since then, though none since 2018.
- Botched executions in 2009, 2014 and 2017 drew intense scrutiny from death penalty critics.
The intrigue: Taft, a Republican, now condemns the practice as costly and ineffective at deterring violent crime.
- He's highlighted the racial disparity in death penalty sentences, noting that people of color make up a disproportionately high percentage of people on death row.
- Fellow former governors Dick Celeste and Ted Strickland, both Democrats, have likewise changed their views and advocate for the policy's repeal.
Between the lines: Gov. Mike DeWine helped write the current death penalty law as a young state legislator and later defended it through two terms as attorney general, per WOSU.
- But his support has waned since becoming governor and no executions have taken place since he took office.
- He has said it's unlikely any will go through during the rest of his second term as Ohio continues to struggle to obtain drugs necessary for lethal injection.
The other side: Attorney General Dave Yost continues to support the death penalty "for the most abhorrent offenders."
- He says lawmakers should either improve the "broken" capital punishment system to remove "churn, waste and endless lawsuits" or eliminate it entirely.
What we're watching: If the latest effort will reach the Senate floor for a vote, something no previous attempt in recent years has achieved.
- Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) opposes ending the death penalty, per the Dispatch, but pledged not to block the bill if a Senate majority backs it.
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