Capital punishment in Ohio

Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Ohio. All executions, however, have been suspended indefinitely by Governor Mike DeWine, and lethal injection will no longer be used as a method of capital punishment. DeWine has suspended all executions until a new method of execution is chosen by the Ohio General Assembly. That, however, does not seem to be a legislative priority, and as a result, there are likely to be no more executions in the state of Ohio for an indefinite period of time.[1] The last execution in the state was in July 2018, when Robert J. Van Hook was executed via lethal injection for murder.[2]

The Southern Ohio Correctional Facility is where condemned individuals in Ohio are executed.

HistoryEdit

As of February 2021, there have been 393 executions in Ohio's history.

Prior to 1885, executions were carried out by hanging in the county where the crime was committed. The Northwest Territory's first criminal statutes,[3] also known as Marietta Code,[4] date from 1788, 15 years before Ohio's statehood in 1803. These statutes did not ensure yet any uniform means of execution, nor did they designate where the executions were to take place. The statutory change from 1815 had executions as to be carried out locally and required the local sheriff to be also the local executioner, and in his absence or in any case of him being impeded, the local coroner would have to substitute him.[5] That ordeal appears to be the first statewide attempt to ensure uniform means of execution and to designate where such executions were to take place, however it also appears to just turn into protocol and procedure by law a practice which had institutionalized even before Ohio's statehood in 1803.

In 1885, the legislature enacted a law that required executions to be carried out at the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus by hanging,[6] and law handed the executioner's job to the penitentiary's warden.[7] This practice of naming the State Prison's warden executioner seems to have penetrated deeply into the 20th Century, as we can learn from the 1938 death sentence against Anna Marie Hahn.[8]

In 1897 the gallows were replaced by electrocution, which was considered to be a more technologically advanced and humane method of execution. Ohio also became the second state to use the electric chair. 28 hangings and 315 electrocutions were carried out at the now-defunct Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus from 1885 to 1963. On October 27, 1911, 43 years old Charles Justice was electrocuted for the murder of John Shoup, a farmer from Xenia who, on September 26, 1910, had caught Justice while he tried to steal from the Shoups' chicken house and was subsequently shot three times. Ironically, Justice had previously been an inmate of the Ohio Penitentiary and he had worked in the prison tin shop, where he built iron clamps to replace the leather straps that Ohio's electric chair was originally fitted with. He was therefore executed in the very same chair he had helped improve.[9][10][11]

On July 1, 2011, Lundbeck, the Danish pharmaceutical company that holds the sole license to manufacture pentobarbital in the United States, announced that its distributors would deny distribution of pentobarbital to U.S. prisons that carry out the death penalty by lethal injection. Ohio used up its supply of pentobarbital on September 25, 2013, with the execution of Harry Mitts Jr.[12] On January 16, 2014, Ohio executed Dennis McGuire who was convicted of raping and then murdering 22-year-old Joy Stewart who was 30 weeks pregnant, becoming the first U.S. inmate to be executed with a combination of the drugs midazolam and hydromorphone.[12][13] The effects of this combination of drugs on the body are controversial and not well understood.[12][14] McGuire took 25 minutes to die, an unusually long time for an execution,[14] being among the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999.[15]

In January 2015, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction announced that all executions scheduled for the remainder of that year would be postponed due to the lack of availability of required drugs. In October 2015, the department further announced that Governor John Kasich had granted additional reprieves to all inmates due to be executed in 2016 for the same reason.[16] Executions resumed in Ohio on July 26, 2017, when the state executed murderer Ronald Phillips.[17]

The last execution in Ohio was in July 2018, when Robert J. Van Hook was executed via lethal injection for murder. The execution was carried out at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in unincorporated Scioto County, just outside the community of Lucasville. Since January 2012, death row for the majority of male inmates is located at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution (CCI) in unincorporated Ross County, just outside of Chillicothe. A few high security male death row inmates are held at the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) in Youngstown. Condemned female inmates are housed at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville and death row inmates with serious medical conditions are held at the Franklin Medical Center in Columbus.[18] Prior to this, most male death row inmates were held at OSP with a few being held at the Mansfield Correctional Institution in Mansfield. The move to CCI allows the units at OSP and Mansfield to be used to separate violent inmates from the general population and will provide increased security and reduce transportation costs to both the execution chamber at SOCF and to the Franklin Medical Center for inmate medical treatment.[18][19]

On December 8, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine placed what he called an “unofficial moratorium” on capital punishment in the state, as a result of the impossibility to acquire drugs needed to carry out a lethal injection. DeWine indicated no executions would be carried out until the Ohio General Assembly approves another method, as lethal injection is the only currently approved method.[20]

As of October 22, 2021, Ohio has 132 inmates on death row.[21] Notable inmates on Ohio's death row include serial killers: Shawn Grate, Anthony Kirkland, and Michael Madison. The only woman on Ohio's death row is Donna Roberts, who murdered her ex-husband in order to collect his life insurance.[21]

MethodsEdit

HangingEdit

Only 28 people were ever executed by the state of Ohio via hanging before the state switched to the electric chair in 1893.

"That the mode of inflicting the punishment of death in all cases under this act, shall be by hanging by the neck, until the person so to be punished shall be dead; & the sheriff, or the coroner in the case of the death, inability or absence of the sheriff of the proper county, in which the sentence of death shall be pronounced by force of this act, shall be the executioner".[22]

Electric ChairEdit

Ohio switched its method of execution from hanging to electrocution in 1897.

Thomas Edison, a resident of Akron, Ohio, as well as New York, New Jersey, and Michigan, directed his employees to develop the electric chair. Edison was an abolitionist but felt that the electric chair would be less cruel than hanging. Unfortunately, a prisoner's bones were set on fire during Edison's prison demonstration.

"[O]n the 10th day of March, 1938, the said Warden shall cause a current of electricity of sufficient intensity to cause death to pass through the body of the said defendant, the application of such current to be continued until the said defendant is dead, and may God have mercy on your soul".[8]

Ohio executed 315 people via electrocution before it switched over to lethal injection in 1963.

Lethal InjectionEdit

Lethal injection was the most recent method of execution in Ohio.

Over the years, the state of Ohio has used several methods of lethal injection. Currently, Ohio uses a two-drug combo of midazolam and hydromorphone.

The dose of midazolam starts at triple the dose used for sedation for office procedures, and the hydromorphone dose is a 150-500-fold overdose for parenteral analgesia in opioid-naïve patients, in fact an entire 50 ml bottle of Dilaudid HP, at 10 mg per ml the strongest proprietary mixture of the drug available, although pure hydromorphone powder can be used to produce solutions up to 33 times more concentrated.[23][12][13]

Legal processEdit

When the prosecution seeks the death penalty, the sentence is decided by the jury and must be unanimous.

In the case of a hung jury during the penalty phase of the trial, a life sentence is issued, even if a single juror opposed death (there is no retrial).[24]

The power of clemency belongs to the governor of Ohio, after receiving a non-binding recommendation from the Ohio Parole Board.[25]

Capital crimesEdit

A charge of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications may occur with at least one of the following special circumstances:[26]

  1. The murder was the assassination of the president of the United States or person in the line of succession to the presidency, or of the governor or lieutenant governor of Ohio, or of the president-elect or vice president-elect of the United States, or of the governor-elect of Ohio, or of a candidate for any of the foregoing offices.
  2. The murder was committed for hire.
  3. The murder was committed for the purpose of escaping detection, apprehension, trial, or punishment for another offense committed by the offender.
  4. The murder was committed while the offender was under detention or while the offender was at large after having broken detention.
  5. Prior to the murder, the offender was convicted of a previous offense having as an essential element the purposeful killing of or attempt to kill another, or the current offense was part of a course of conduct involving the offender's purposeful killing of or attempt to kill two or more persons.
  6. The victim was a law enforcement officer, and the offender knew or reasonably should have known that fact, and the officer was either performing duties or the offender acted with the specific purpose of killing such officer.
  7. The murder was committed while the offender was committing, attempting to commit, or fleeing immediately after committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, rape, aggravated arson, aggravated robbery, or aggravated burglary, and either the offender was the principal offender in the commission of the aggravated murder or, if not the principal offender, committed the aggravated murder with prior planning.
  8. The victim was a witness who was purposely killed by the offender either to prevent the victim from testifying, or in retaliation for prior testimony.
  9. The offender, in the commission of the murder, purposefully caused the death of another who was under 13 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense, and either the offender was the principal offender in the commission of the offense or, if not the principal offender, committed the offense with prior planning.
  10. The offense was committed while the offender was committing, attempting to commit, or fleeing immediately after committing or attempting to commit terrorism.

Opposition and controversyEdit

There is a movement in the state to end the death penalty. According to the Associated Press, Republicans such as former Ohio Governor Bob Taft, great-grandson of President William Howard Taft, and former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro have publicly opposed the death penalty. Taft questioned the effectiveness of the death penalty as well as geographic and racial disparities. The former Speaker of the House in Ohio, also Republican, Larry Householder, wants the legislature to reconsider the law because of the cost of executions and the failure of the state to obtain drugs.

The BBC reported that The European Commission - the executive arm of the European Union - wished to ensure that no drugs were being exported from the Union for use in "capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". The EU is part of a worldwide movement against the death penalty. Amnesty International's annual report found that only 20 countries of the world's 195 executed prisoners in 2019.[27]

Many religious faiths in Ohio have also officially opposed the death penalty.[28][29]

Botched executionsEdit

The Los Angeles Times noted in October 2009 that Ohio had three botched executions by lethal injection since 2006: Joseph Lewis Clark, Christopher Newton and Romell Broom.[30] In November 2009, Ohio announced that it would only use a single drug for lethal injections, consisting of a single dose of sodium thiopental, the first state to do so. The first single drug execution was that of Kenneth Biros, 51, on Tuesday, December 8, 2009. Biros was convicted of murdering 22-year-old Tami Engstrom near Masury, Ohio in 1991. Biros' counsel indicated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that Biros' execution, given that it is the first of its kind, may amount to "human experimentation." Various appeals for clemency were ultimately denied. Ohio announced in January 2011 that it will change the drug used from sodium thiopental to pentobarbital, as the availability of sodium thiopental had become quite scarce. The first execution using pentobarbital, was that of Johnnie Baston, on March 10, 2011.[31]

The Atlantic magazine wrote that on January 19, 2014, Dennis McGuire died over 11 minutes, unable to breathe, during a lethal injection in Ohio's death chamber. “Over those 11 minutes or more he was fighting for breath, and I could see both of his fists were clenched the entire time,” recounted Father Lawrence Hummer, an execution witness. “There is no question in my mind that Dennis McGuire suffered greatly over many minutes.” [32]

Failed executionsEdit

Ohio has failed twice in its efforts to execute an inmate by lethal injection. Romell Broom and Alva Campbell had their executions aborted due to the execution teams not being able to find a usable vein.[33] Both later died on death row while awaiting new execution dates.[34][35]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Ohio will stop executions until lawmakers pick alternative to lethal injection, Gov. Mike DeWine says". The Plain Dealer. December 8, 2020.
  2. ^ "Ohio governor: Lethal injection no longer execution option". The Independent. December 8, 2020.
  3. ^ Laws Passed in the Territory of the United States North-West of the River Ohio. Philadelphia, PA: Printed by F. Childs and J. Swaine, 1788.; microfiche Buffalo, NY: Hein, 1986.
  4. ^ These statutes are also known as the Marietta Code, as quoted in: Welsh-Huggins, Andrew: No Winners Here Tonight: Race, Politics, and Geography in One of the Country's Busiest Death Penalty States. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2009, p. 12.
  5. ^ "That the mode of inflicting the punishment of death in all cases under this act, shall be by hanging by the neck, until the person so to be punished shall be dead; & the sheriff, or the coroner in the case of the death, inability or absence of the sheriff of the proper county, in which the sentence of death shall be pronounced by force of this act, shall be the executioner". (quoted from: Streib, Victor L.: The Fairer Death: Executing Women in Ohio. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2006, p. 23.)
  6. ^ "... and when any person shall be sentenced, by any cort of the state having competent jurisdiction, to be hanged by the neck until dead, such punishment shall only be inflicted within the walls of the Ohio penitentiary, at Columbus, Ohio, within an enclosure to be prepared for that purpose under the direction of the warden of the penitentiary and the board of managers thereof, which enclosure shall be higher than the gallows, and so constructed as to exclude public view". (quoted from: Streib, Victor L.: The Fairer Death: Executing Women in Ohio. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2006, p. 23, 24.)
  7. ^ "The mode of inflicting the punishment of death shall be by hanging by the neck until the person is dead; and the warden of the Ohio penitentiary, or in case of his death, inability or absence, a deputy warden, shall be the executioner;...". (quoted from: Streib, Victor L.: The Fairer Death: Executing Women in Ohio. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2006, p. 24.)
  8. ^ a b The death sentence against Anna Marie Hahn reads as follows: "[O]n the 10th day of March, 1938, the said Warden shall cause a current of electricity of sufficient intensity to cause death to pass through the body of the said defendant, the application of such current to be continued until the said defendant is dead, and may God have mercy on your soul". (quoted from: Streib, Victor L.: The Fairer Death: Executing Women in Ohio. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2006, p. 44.)
  9. ^ "Man Who Built Electric Chair Was Executed". Urbana Daily Courier. November 14, 1924. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  10. ^ Williford, Brett. "A Murder On The Farm". Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  11. ^ "Charles Justice". Find A Grave. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d Ehrenfreund, Max (January 16, 2014). "Dennis McGuire executed in Ohio with new combination of lethal drugs". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  13. ^ a b Higgs, Robert (January 16, 2014). "State executes murderer Dennis McGuire, marking first use of new blend of drugs for lethal injection". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  14. ^ a b Ford, Dana (January 16, 2014). "Controversial execution in Ohio uses new drug combination". CNN. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  15. ^ Welsh-Huggins, Andrew (January 16, 2014). "Executed Killer Dennis McGuire, who was convicted of raping and then murdering 22 year old Joy Stewart who was 30 weeks pregnant, Gasped And Snorted For 15 Minutes Under New Lethal Drug Combo". Huffington Post. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  16. ^ "Upcoming Executions". Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  17. ^ Connor, Tracy (July 26, 2017). "Ronald Phillips Executed in Ohio, Ending Three-Year Break". NBC News.
  18. ^ a b "Local News - The Chillicothe Gazette - chillicothegazette.com". The Chillicothe Gazette. Archived from the original on 2015-07-14.
  19. ^ Alan Johnson. "Death Row move to Chillicothe frees up cells". The Columbus Dispatch.
  20. ^ "Ohio governor: Lethal injection no longer execution option". Associated Press. December 8, 2020.
  21. ^ a b "Ohio Death Row Inmates". Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  22. ^ "That the mode of inflicting the punishment of death in all cases under this act, shall be by hanging by the neck, until the person so to be punished shall be dead; & the sheriff, or the coroner in the case of the death, inability or absence of the sheriff of the proper county, in which the sentence of death shall be pronounced by force of this act, shall be the executioner".(quoted from: Streib, Victor L.: The Fairer Death: Executing Women in Ohio. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2006, p. 23.)
  23. ^ Hydromorphone
  24. ^ "2929.03 Imposition of sentence for aggravated murder". codes.ohio.gov. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  25. ^ "Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Executive Clemency". drc.ohio.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
  26. ^ Ohio Revised Code section 2929.04
  27. ^ "Conservative group seeks end to death penalty in Ohio". Associated Press. February 19, 2020.
  28. ^ "Ohio".
  29. ^ http://www.otse.org
  30. ^ "Ohio's botched executions". Los Angeles Times (in American English). 2009-10-14. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  31. ^ "Killer executed for 1994 Toledo murder". The Columbus Dispatch.
  32. ^ "Can Europe End the Death Penalty in America?". The Atlantic. 19 February 2014.
  33. ^ "Convicted murderer Alva Campbell Jr's execution halted after officials fail to find vein". ABC. Reuters. 16 November 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  34. ^ "Franklin County prosecutor: Death row inmate Alva Campbell has died". WBNS-TV. March 3, 2018.
  35. ^ "Inmate who survived execution attempt dies; COVID suspected". AP. December 29, 2020. Retrieved December 29, 2020.

BibliographyEdit

  • Laws Passed in the Territory of the United States North-West of the River Ohio. Philadelphia, PA: Printed by F. Childs and J. Swaine, 1788.; microfiche Buffalo, NY: Hein, 1986.
  • Davis, Harry: Death by Law. Columbus, OH: Federal Printing, 1922. (Reprinted from Outlook Magazine).
  • DeBeck, William: Murder Will Out: The Murders and Executions of Cincinnati. Cincinnati, OH: 1867.
  • DiSalle, Michael: The Power of Life or Death. New York, NY: Random House, 1965.
  • Wanger, Eugene G.: "Capital Punishment in Ohio: A Brief History", Ohio Lawyer, November–December 2002, 8, 11, 30.
  • Fogle, H. M.: The Palace of Death, or, The Ohio Penitentiary Annex. Columbus, OH: 1908.
  • Fornshell, Marvin E.: The Historical and Illustrated Ohio Penitentiary Annex. Columbus, OH: Arthur, W. McGraw, 1997 (reprint of the 1903 original)
  • Hixon, Mary, and Frances Hixon: The Last Hangings: Jackson, Ohio 1883-1884. Mary Hixon and Frances Hixon, 1989
  • Maynard, Rosina: Ohio's Other Lottery System: The Death Penalty. Columbus, OH: Rosina Maynard, 1980.
  • Morgan, Dan: Historical Lights and Shadows of the Ohio State Penitentiary. Columbus, OH: Ohio Penitentiary Printing, 1893.
  • Welsh-Huggins, Andrew: No Winners Here Tonight: Race, Politics, and Geography in One of the Country's Busiest Death Penalty States. Columbus, OH: Ohio University Press, 2008
  • Streib, Victor L.: The Fairer Death: Executing Women in Ohio. Columbus, OH: Ohio University Press, 2006

External linksEdit

These links are to official State of Ohio records regarding executions in the state and Ohio administrative rules and statutes pertaining to capital punishment in Ohio