WASHINGTON, July 25, 2017 – The American Bar Association is deeply concerned about Ohio’s plan to resume executions, since many important reforms recommended to improve the accuracy and fairness of the death penalty have not been adopted.
The ABA takes no position on the death penalty as a means of punishment. However, the ABA believes that jurisdictions applying the death penalty should implement it fairly, accurately and with due process. To this end, the ABA worked with a diverse team of Ohio legal experts, including former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Craig Wright, to produce the Ohio Death Penalty Assessment Report in 2007. The team found, among other problems, significant geographic and racial bias that resulted in an inconsistent and unfair administration of the state’s death penalty and inadequate protections for individuals with mental illnesses. The assessment provided a detailed roadmap for sensible reforms that could improve the administration of the death penalty. Many of the recommendations were endorsed by a task force appointed by the Supreme Court of Ohio and the Ohio State Bar Association.
A handful of reforms have been passed in Ohio over the last two years, and several important bills are pending in the legislature. In addition, some individual prosecutors have taken the initiative to implement important reforms to improve the fairness of capital litigation in their counties. Despite this progress, the majority of the assessment’s recommendations have not been adopted statewide. Delaying the planned executions until all needed reforms have been implemented will not result in the release of death row inmates, but it will allow time to ensure that Ohio’s death penalty system comports with due process. We urge Governor Kasich to ensure that Ohio’s death penalty system meets the assessment's recommended due process standards before allowing executions to resume.
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