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OTSE Press Release – New Death Sentences in Ohio Down 49% as Supreme Court Task Force Recommends Drastic Changes

CINCINNATI, OH-The Death Penalty Information Center released its year-end report noting that the number of new death sentences nationwide in 2013 remained near historic lows. Fifteen states imposed at least 1 new death sentence in 2013, compared to 18 states in 2012. Ohio imposed three new death sentences this year.

Ohio has seen a steady decline in new death sentences since the latest death penalty statute was adopted in 1981. New death sentences peaked in the mid-1980s with 24 in 1985. Throughout the 1990s new death sentences were somewhat consistent until 1998 when Ohio’s Life Without Parole option began to take hold and new death sentences began to drop. In the last decade, new death sentences remained in single digits.

The number of executions in 2013 (39) nationwide marks only the second time in nearly two decades that there were fewer than 40 executions. Ohio scheduled six men for execution in 2013 but only three were actually killed. Across the country, Ohio was one of only 9 states that carried out executions, with 59% occurring in Texas (16) and Florida (7).

In 2013, Maryland joined 17 other states without the death penalty. Six states in six years have abandoned capital punishment; the other five were New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, and Connecticut.

This year, the Ohio Supreme Court Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty concluded its examination of the death penalty and voted to make over 50 recommendations. These recommendations attempt to address the overwhelming failure of Ohio’s capital punishment system to meet standards set by the American Bar Association. A report from the Task Force is expected in Spring 2014.

“More and more Ohioans see that the death penalty system is broken and frankly, it’s impossible to fix it,” said Kevin Werner, executive director of Ohioans to Stop Executions.

“We call on the Ohio Legislature to implement the recommendations put forth by the Task Force, which will at least make Ohio’s system a little more fair. However, many states went through a similar process, Maryland, Illinois and New Jersey among them, and discovered what we already know—the death penalty can’t be fixed.

“Ultimately, Ohioans to Stop Executions agrees with the death penalty statute’s own author, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeiffer, who after years of trying to make it work now says Ohio’s death penalty is unworkable and calls for its repeal.

“Indeed, repeal is the only answer if we want to avoid executing an innocent person. Certainly, we can keep our communities safe and do better for murder victims’ family members if we get rid of the death penalty.”

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