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Monday, September 24, 2007

ABA Says Ohio Should Suspend Executions: New Report Finds State Death Penalty Deeply Flawed

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The executive summary of the American Bar Association Report is 42 pages long and it calls for an immediate moratorium to stop the death penalty from taking place in Ohio. It contends the the existing process does not guarantee accuracy, fairness and is racially biased. It says the governor should appoint a special commission to review claims of factual innocence in Ohio death cases, and that all police interrogations of suspects who face death charges should be taped, preferably on video.

"Despite the best efforts of a multitude of principled and thoughtful actors who play roles in the criminal justice process in the State of Ohio, our research establishes that at this point in time, the State of Ohio cannot ensure that fairness and accuracy are the hallmark of every case in which the death penalty is sought or imposed. Basic notions of fairness require that participants in the criminal justice system ensure that the ultimate penalty of death is reserved for only the very worst offenses and defendants. It is therefore the conclusion of the members of the Ohio Death Penalty Assessment Team that the State of Ohio should impose a temporary suspension of executions until such time as the State is able to appropriately address the issues and recommendations throughout this report, and in particular the executive summary."

Currently, Ohio has 184 prisoners awaiting execution. The state prison system link above also leads to information about those who have been executed, and gives a history of capital punishment in Ohio.

Meanwhile, Ohio State University law professor Doug Berman has a review of the ABA report on his legal blog Sentencing Law and Policy about the reforms, and he wonders if anybody will pay attention.

"I have complained in the past that these mega-reports represent an extraordinary investment of time and energy trying to ensure that a bunch of murderers get to spend a bit more time locked in a cage before they die. My particular concern what that these very detailed reports seem unlikely to get much traction (or even be read) in states with politicians that are very committed to the death penalty. In Ohio, however, he have a governor [Strickland] and attorney general [Marc Dann] and more that a few state legislators who have repeatedly expressed reservations about capital punishment. The Ohio reaction to this ABA report should be a good test of whether all this work by the ABA can truly be consequential."

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