Racial Bias in Ohio’s Death Penalty Is Part of National Pattern
New Report Illustrates Death Penalty’s Roots in Slavery, Lynching, Segregation
(Columbus, OH) — The death penalty in Ohio is part of a nationwide pattern of racial injustice in capital punishment. As demonstrated in Enduring Injustice, a new report on race and the death penalty from the Death Penalty Information Center, capital punishment in the U.S. is part of the legacy of slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow segregation. Racial bias and racial disparities are endemic to the use of the death penalty, and Ohio is no exception.
Year after year, studies have found significant evidence of the influence of race on Ohio’s death penalty. This year, The Columbia Human Rights Law Review published a study of 599 aggravated murder charges in Hamilton County from January 1992 to August 2017. The researchers found, “that a case with at least one white victim faced odds of being charged capitally that were 4.54 times the odds of a similarly situated case with no white victims.”
Since its origins as a tool to control Black populations and deter slave revolts, to the use of lynching to maintain a white supremacist social order, to today’s widespread racial disparities in its application, the death penalty has been at the heart of a racist criminal legal system. “As it currently stands, courts are empowered to determine that a defendant’s life has so little redeeming value that the state is willing to execute that person, and this decision is influenced by stereotypes, fear, and comparative valuation of lives,” writes Ngozi Ndulue, lead author of Enduring Injustice. “One cannot create a criminal legal system that can be trusted to dispense justice without addressing this extreme example of racial injustice.”
Ohio’s use of the death penalty is part of an ongoing pattern of racial injustice that must be addressed. While people of color make up less than 15% of Ohio’s population, they make up 56% of Ohio’s death row, 33% of those executed, and 66% of those exonerated. However, when Ohio executions have taken place, 75% of the time it has involved a white victim – indicating which lives Ohio has deemed worthy of the ultimate punishment.
“The death penalty is one of the main pillars holding up a criminal legal system plagued by racism,” writes Hannah Kubbins, Executive Director of Ohioans to Stop Executions (OTSE). Race continues to have a significant influence on who is sentenced to death in this country; both the race of the victim and the race of the accused,” she continues.
“We should be looking for ways we can support impacted communities and all victims’ families independent of the criminal legal system that are not reliant on what happens to the person who caused the harm. It’s clear that the death penalty is a system that perpetuates racial disparity. For that reason, and dozens more, we hope to see the end of capital punishment in Ohio in the coming years,” writes Kubbins.
To speak with Hannah Kubbins, Executive Director at Ohioans to Stop Executions, call 740-877-7390 or email [email protected].
To speak with Ngozi Ndulue, author of Enduring Injustice and Senior Director of Research and Special Projects at the Death Penalty Information Center, please contact Chloe Madvig at 202-289-4022 or [email protected].