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Friday, January 26, 2007

Ohio Death Penalty: Gov. Strickland Has 'Serious Questions'

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Methodist minister and psychologist by training, has told Cincinnati Enquirer Statehouse reporter Jon Craig that he is not entirely comfortable with the death penalty. The governor postponed three executions last week while he looks into the cases, and Craig is preparing a story for the Sunday newspaper that explores Democrat Strickland's views. Strickland granted him an on-the-record interview.

Craig says Strickland told him he has "serious questions" about capital punishment, including concerns about possible racial bias against black defendants. The governor also raised issues about the adequacy of DNA testing, geographic differences across Ohio in how prosecutors treat murder cases, and financial access to skilled defense lawyers.

Those are some of the same issues raised by federal appeals court judge Boyce Martin, who says he no longer believes the death penalty is applied fairly in Ohio or anywhere else in the United States. Martin, an appointee of former Democratic President Jimmy Carter, say he won't vote to uphold convictions. Martin's view is described in more detail HERE.

There is a teaser HERE on Cincinnati.com about Strickland's interview.

2 comments:

  1. This makes me think of the two men from Portage County released last week. They were found guilty of murder in 1988, but the conviction was recently overturned.

    The men face new trials in the spring. More here. In this case, prior to widespread DNA testing, a stain found in the truck of one defendant was a said to be blood, and that coupled with a lame eyewitness sent them away.

    They could be guilty, I don't know, but the evidence was weak enough to question the fair application of "beyond a reasonable doubt".

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  2. There is another difficult part of the equation -- the competence of attorneys. Judge Martin's line "In our capitalist society, you get what you pay for" is aimed at the low fees court-appointed defense lawyers receive. Top-rate legal talent isn't around for these cases at the trial stage.

    Also, the new (five or six years now) life w/o parole law has really cut down on death sentences in Ohio. Juries are opting to lock 'em up and throw away the key. I have a sense that the death penalty is slipping out of fashion, and its popularity with the public has waned considerably since the 1980s/1990s. By the way, I have witnessed/attended executions at Lucasville from my Plain Dealer reporter days. It was not the worst part of my job.

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