Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton will be the first recipient of The Terry J. Collins Award on April 12 at an event at the Statehouse. The award recognizes a leader in government who once supported and/or implemented the death penalty. Like Collins, the recipient must not only have reversed positions on the death penalty but actively advocated to end executions. Collins participated in 33 executions during his career with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. In his retirement he became an outspoken advocate against capital punishment.
Justice Stratton was known to be a supporter of capital punishment during her time on the high court. She spoke about how her position had evolved when she met with the Supreme Court Task Force on the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty in 2013. Among its 56 recommendations, the Task Force called for the exemption from execution of defendants with severe mental illness at the time of the crime. Justice Stratton helps lead the efforts of the Ohio Alliance for the Mental Illness Exemption (OAMIE.org), a coalition of mental health groups and others advocating for Senate Bill 162. If passed by the legislature, SB 162 would implement the mental illness exemption.
“I am extremely honored to receive this recognition in the name of a great leader and dear friend,” said Stratton. “Terry was an inspiration to me, and I am glad to be in his company as a person who now opposes the death penalty. I’m an advocate for the mentally ill, which is why I am working so hard to pass Senate Bill 162. In general, the death penalty does not deter murder, and with all the delays, it does not bring closure for the victim’s survivors.”
Linda Collins, Terry’s wife of 44 years, will be on hand to receive the award named for her late husband and to assist OTSE in presenting the award to Justice Stratton.
“Terry would be pleased that OTSE is doing this,” said Linda Collins. “He wanted to help policy makers understand why executions don’t do anything to make prisons safer, and that our society would be better without capital punishment.”
Linda often traveled with Terry to his presentations as part of OTSE’s “Voices of Experience” programs throughout the state. “He always looked forward to sharing his opposition to the death penalty because he knew his voice was both unique and respected,” she said. “Terry and Eve [Justice Stratton] were friends. I’m looking forward to hearing more about her own evolution on the issue.”
The award will be presented April 12 as part of Ohioans to Stop Executions Death Penalty Lobby Day program. The program begins at 9:30 am in the Statehouse Atrium. The public is welcome to attend and is encouraged to register at www.otse.org.