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Ohio House lawmakers hear arguments for banning death penalty

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 5:16 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Ohio’s governor continues to issue reprieves of execution for inmates on death row in the state as lawmakers reconvene in Columbus to consider banning the punishment in the future.

Earlier this month, Gov. Mike DeWine pushed back the dates of four executions scheduled to take place in the first half of 2022. He previously issued reprieves for all executions scheduled in 2021.

No inmates have been put to death during his tenure as governor. DeWine halted the use of lethal injection, the only legal execution method in the state, due to concerns that the drugs used in the process could cause “severe pain and needless suffering.”

Lawmakers in the Senate introduced a bipartisan bill earlier this year to outlaw the practice, led by Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood). A nearly identical bill was also introduced in the House.

State senators heard testimony in favor of banning the death penalty earlier this year. Now, back from their summer break, lawmakers in the House heard similar testimony Thursday on the bill moving through their chamber.

An aide to Sen. Antonio told 13abc that the senator believes the legislation will pass out of the Senate and move to the House, instead of the other way around, “but frankly movement in either chamber to advance the bill would be progress,” she said.

Marg Godsey, with the Ohio Innocence Project, was among those who testified Thursday in the House. He shared the story of one of his clients, Ricky Jackson.

Jackson spent nearly four decades in prison after he was sentenced to death for the 1975 murder of a businessman in Cleveland. He was 19 when he was sentenced, without physical evidence, and only the eyewitness account of a 12-year-old boy. That witness recanted his testimony in 2014, leading to the dismissal of Jackson’s case.

“The risk of convicting an innocent person is real,” Godsey said.

Ohio currently has 133 inmates on death row. Many have been there for decades.

In a report this year on capital crimes, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost called the state’s system time-consuming, costly and lethargic.

Members of Ohio’s faith community agree and testified Thursday that capital punishment is inhumane.

“Executions only exacerbate the cycle of death, while they erode the state’s moral credibility,” said Jack Sullivan Jr., the Executive Director of the Ohio Council of Churches.

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