In 2001 the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit noted the racial imbalance on Ohio’s death row as “glaringly extreme” and “to say the least, extremely troubling.” However, they were unable to take action due to prior rulings by the United States Supreme Court that restricted court considerations of racially discriminatory patterns in death sentencing.
Capital defendants charged with killing a white victim in Ohio are twice as likely to receive a death sentence as those charged with killing a black person.
- From 1999-2010, 38 people were executed. None of the 38 executions during this time involved a white defendant who killed a black victim.
- At least seven black defendants have been executed for murdering a white victim.
- More than 70% of the people on Ohio’s death row are there for the murder of a white person, even though more than half of all homicide victims are black.
- Of the 138 inmates on death row in Ohio, more than half are people of color, even though they make up a very small fraction (16%) of Ohio’s population.
Race impacts death sentencing at every stage of the death penalty process, often in ways that are hidden or unintentional. Cross-racial eyewitness identification, for example, is much less reliable than eyewitness identification from within the same race or ethnicity. White jurors are less likely to be receptive to mitigating evidence when the defendant is black, and more likely to find future dangerousness
The Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty made several recommendations attempting to address the clear racial bias, including the adoption of a Racial Justice Act. The act allows defendants facing the death penalty to present evidence of racial bias, including statistics, in court.