Death Penalty
3:41 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Ohio task force releases final Death Penalty report

Update: Committee issued it's final report today. You can read it here. Court News Ohio says: The report will now be reviewed by the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court and by the president of the Ohio State Bar Association and is being made available to the members of the Ohio General Assembly and interested parties.

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May 7th:

On May 2oth, the Ohio Supreme Court's Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio's Death Penalty is expected to release its final report. The committee's 56 recommendations, in a draft, are already searchable online.

Here are a few of the task force's recommendations:

  • Don't impose the death sentence unless the state has DNA or other biological evidence that links the defendant to the murder or has a voluntary videotaped confession
  • Rule out jailhouse informant testimony unless independently corroborated
  • Allow racial disparity claims to be raised
  • Make clear that a jury must always be given the option of extending mercy that arises from the evidence

Twenty-two people make up the task force, chaired by  Judge Jim Brogan of Dayton. It includes prosecutors, parole officers, professors, police and lawmakers. Locally, Clermont County Sheriff Tim Rodenberg and Senator Bill Seitz are on the committee. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters was on the committee, but, according to Judge Brogan, "Joe Deters was apparently so upset in the beginning that he rarely attended any of the meetings over the two years and so he lost his vote."

In a written response to the draft, Rodenberg said he didn't see the point. His full statement is here.

"In reflecting on the content of the majority and minority reports, I concur with the minority report that anti-death penalty thinking dominated the process and the majority recommendations reflect that. There was nothing of significance in the final majority report and any substance that enhanced "fairness" from the state's-prosecution's point of view."

Senator Seitz issued a written partially dissenting statement. Here's his full statement.

"Throughout the Task Force's deliberations, I cautioned that we risk legislative rejection of the entire Report to the extent that the recommendations included the kind of aggressive ones from which I dissent today.  I hope that this is not the case, because most of the recommendations are reasonable, measured steps that Ohio can take to ensure that the death penalty is reserved for the worst cases and only imposed on a meticulously fair record, thereby minimizing the chance that any innocent would actually be executed for a crime he or she did not commit."

Groups like Ohioans to Stop Executions (OTSE) are watching the recommendations closely. Judge Brogan, who says he favors the death penalty, will speak Wednesday night at the College of Mount Saint Joseph at 7:00pm with Malinda Dawson at an OTSE event.

Dawson, vice chair of the group, fought for her ex-husband, Clarence Elkins to be exonerated for the murder of her mother. He was found to be innocent thanks to DNA evidence.  She suggested the real killer, Earl Mann, get life, not death, because, "I just felt that we, as a family could not handle another trial. We were done with the violence and the murder in our lives."

Next steps:

Judge Brogan says the Ohio Supreme Court will address any procedural rules changes but recommendations like narrowing the criminal code to limit the people subject to the death penalty would have to be taken up by the legislature.