Ohio took a significant step toward abolishing the death penalty in the state. After years of debate about the matter, both chambers of the state legislature now have bills that, if passed, would put an end to capital punishment.
Legislative proposals to end the death penalty have been introduced every session for over ten years. But now, it appears the effort is gaining some traction.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers backed by religious groups and other policy organizations introduced the proposed legislation in the state House. There has already been a bill introduced in the state Senate.
On September 6, 2023, a bipartisan group of Ohio state representatives reintroduced a bill that would abolish the death penalty and replace the punishment with life in prison without parole. Legislators in Ohio have debated the use of capital punishment for nearly a decade, but this renewed effort comes after state senators introduced Senate Bill 101 earlier in the year, which would also abolish the use of capital punishment.
The Ohio House bill to end Ohio’s death penalty officially has a number: HB 259! This bill is a companion to SB 101.
— Jessica Dickinson (@JessCDickinson) September 13, 2023
Republican Attorney General Dave Yost has indicated opposition to the bills.
Ohio Republican Attorney General Dave Yost isn’t ready to get behind the most recent bipartisan push to end the death penalty in the state.
The bipartisan group of lawmakers, along with religious groups and other policy groups from the state, recently announced a plan to introduce legislation in the House of Representatives that would ban the death penalty.
Yost, though, isn’t sold on the idea.
“Bad ideas do not magically become good ideas simply because both of our broken political parties agree on it,” Yost said.
The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association has also come out against ending capital punishment in the state.
“Sometimes the death penalty is just what justice demands,” said Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association. “There’s no more concrete example of why we need a death penalty than the tragedy that took place in Clermont County earlier this year where three kids were brutally murdered by their father.”
Tobin agreed that the death penalty in its current practice does not deter crime, but he said it serves as an “ultimate accountability” for victims, communities and the state.
“I think prosecutors uniformly agree that there are times when the death penalty is appropriate. There are times when it’s necessary,” Tobin said.
Ohio’s last execution was carried out in July 2018, and 31 inmates are currently set to be executed at a future date. Yost’s office released a report earlier this year showing that an inmate usually spends about 21 years on death row.
This costs the state five times more for a capital case than a noncapital case, which is one argument conservatives have used against the death penalty. The report also revealed that the practice has not been implemented fairly, which has prompted distrust in the system.
Republicans have been instrumental in getting the bills introduced. Demetrius Minor, National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, told RedState that this development “shows that conservatives are the pivotal group that’s going to help us get a death penalty repeal bill across the finish lines.”
He added: “We are gaining momentum with conservatives, and the trend of conservatives questioning the use of capital punishment continues to move in the right direction.”
As the debate continues, the death penalty’s future in Ohio is hanging in the balance, awaiting action that could shape the state’s criminal justice landscape for years to come.