CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A federal appeals court judge waging a legal war against the death penalty delivered his strongest protest Friday. U.S Circuit Judge Boyce F. Martin said Ohio's elected prosecutors and judges are degrading the state's criminal justice system to win and preside over convictions. Martin said too many courthouse officials pandered to public opinion to appear tough on crime.
Martin wanted the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to overturn the 1988 Cuyahoga County conviction of Billy Slagle. He got one other judge on the 15-member court to vote with him. That didn't stop his tirade -- Martin said jurists and prosecutors are sending people to the death chamber for sustained publicity in newspapers and TV, and for the political advantages it gives them when they run for reelection.
''Ohio's criminal justice system is only degraded by prosecutors who continue to disregard the ethical duties of the legal profession in order to increase their 'batting average' of death sentences and other convictions. Through this practice prosecutors are able to state that they are 'tough on crime,' allowing them to secure more votes, remain in office, and continue their conviction-oriented (rather than justice-oriented approach," Martin said in his dissent.
He said the state's judges are not immune from the same political motives because they have to run for office. He suggested appointed judges would be more interested in fairness over headlines.
"Ohio's policy of electing judges subjects them to the same political pressures that affect prosecutors,'' Martin added. "So long as the Supreme Court deems the death penalty permissible under the Constitution, and so long as prosecutors and state court judges are subject to political pressure to be 'tough on crime' and pro-death penalty, the politicization of the death penalty will only accelerate."
Martin, 71, was appointed by Democratic President Jimmy Carter in 1979. He said last month he will no longer vote to uphold a death penalty conviction.
Martin said Slagle's Cleveland trial was biased. He contends Slagle should receive a new trial, and that sending him to his death would be a major injustice. Information about Slagle, along with a recent photo, can viewed by clicking here on the Ohio prison system's offender search site.
The complete text of Judge Martin's dissent is a strongly worded document. He says prosecutors ought to have their law licenses challenged for acting in their "self-interest."