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April 20, 2021

Ohio Attorney General Criticizes “Broken” Death Penalty System

By Annika Russell, DPRP Intern

On April 1, 2021, Dave Yost, Ohio’s Attorney General, issued the 2020 Capital Crimes Annual Report, a 400+ page report that describes Ohio’s death penalty system as “increasingly time-consuming, costly and lethargic.”

According to the report, of the 341 death sentences imposed since Ohio reinstated the death penalty in 1981, only 56 have been carried out. That is, one in only six people sentenced to death are executed. In that same timeframe, there have been 21 commutations of people on death row, 33 deaths of natural causes or by suicide, eight removals due to intellectual disability, and 82 removals by other judicial action. Additionally, to “illustrate the glacial pace of capital cases,” the report identified that the average Ohio death row prisoner spends over 7,000 days (19.20 years) on death row before execution or the case is resolved in some other manner.

“I’m saying that [the system is] broken,” Yost said in an April 5 interview. “Anytime that you have a law that is not fairly and equally enforced—and promptly enforced—it demeans all law and breeds disrespect for law (…) what we have right now is a law on the books that is not enforced, which is the worst of all possible worlds.” Yost did not take a stance on repealing the death penalty in Ohio. However, he advised that either repeal should happen quickly, or, if the death penalty remains as a possible punishment in the state, the process should be sped up.

Yost’s comments come at a time when momentum to repeal the death penalty is growing within the Ohio legislature and among the general public. Read more on Ohio’s new death penalty repeal bill here

The information and views provided in the American Bar Association (“ABA”) Death Penalty Representation Project’s blog do not constitute official statements by the ABA and do not represent official ABA policy. For more information, please visit our policy and statement pages.