As of March 1, 2011, the Ohio Supreme Court has set execution dates for ten prisoners this year. In 2010, Ohio carried out eight executions, the largest number since capital punishment resumed at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville in 1999. Ohio was second only to Texas, which held 17 executions last year. If all 10 executions in 2011 occur as scheduled, Ohio will again set a state record for the execution of the most prisoners in a single year.
Ohio officials note that more executions scheduled in 2010 and 2011 have been the result of the conclusion of court challenges to lethal injection procedures, along with exhausted appeals. While Ohio’s executions appear to be increasing, the number of executions nationwide has fallen by about 60 percent since the 1990s.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, this drop in executions can be partially attributed to heightened awareness of wrongful convictions and new state laws allowing juries to consider life in prison without parole instead of a death sentence.
The rapid assignment of execution dates could hinder efforts to offer fair and adequate representation to individuals facing a death sentence. Brett Hartman, scheduled to be executed on August 16th, 2011, had already come within one week of execution in 2009 before a federal appeals court allowed him to pursue an innocence claim.
Mr. Hartman has an appeal pending in the Ohio Supreme Court that will resolve whether false testimony was involved in his trial. Ohio prosecutors have pressed the Supreme Court to set execution dates in five additional pending capital punishment cases.