Bipartisan Task Force Chair, Former Corrections Professionals, Death Row Exonerees, Faith Leaders, and Thousands of Concerned Citizens Urge Governor Kasich to Reconsider Plans for Risky Executions
(Columbus, OH; July 19, 2017) Today, the Chair of the Ohio Supreme Court Joint Task Force on the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty, nearly 200 faith leaders, 17 former corrections professionals, five innocent men exonerated from Ohio’s death row, and over 27,000 citizens are urging Governor John Kasich not to resume executions because of “too much risk associated with Ohio’s death penalty.”
At a press conference at the statehouse this morning, and through numerous letters and petitions delivered today, a diverse group of individuals expressed grave concerns about a range of issues, including: the risk of executing an innocent person; the cost of the death penalty at a time when the state desperately needs to put those resources into victims’ services and saving lives threatened by the opiate addiction crisis; the harm to corrections workers and the prospect of another botched execution; and the fact that none of the substantive recommendations of the Ohio Supreme Court Joint Task Force on the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty have been implemented. The execution of Ron Phillips is scheduled for Wednesday, July 26, 2017, and is the first of 27 executions scheduled in Ohio through March 2021.
“As Chair of the Task Force, I find it very troubling that our state is about to resume executions while the most substantive of our recommendations to the legislature lay idle,” said retired Judge and former prosecutor James Brogan, Chair of the Supreme Court Joint Task Force on the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty, whose letter was delivered to Gov. Kasich this morning and can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/2tGAsuu.
“Those charged with ensuring our capital punishment system is fair and accurate have failed to act. It is my view that if Ohio is to retain the death penalty, it should not resume executions without addressing our body of work, which took nearly two and half years to complete and was representative of key stakeholders in the criminal justice system. More than three years have passed since we issued our report of 56 recommendations yet virtually nothing has changed. This lack of action is disconcerting and will enable the core problems we identified to continue and potentially lead to wrongful death penalty convictions,” said Judge Brogan.
Ohio officials plan to carry out the lethal injection execution of Mr. Phillips using the controversial drug midazolam, along with a paralytic that could mask any pain and distress. The same risky drug midazolam was used in the problematic, 26-minute execution of Dennis McGuire on January 16, 2014, where he gasped for air and choked. Midazolam has been implicated in multiple botched executions in numerous states, which has raised great concerns among corrections officials.
“Many of us continue to experience the negative psychological and emotional impact of executions years after carrying them out,” said 17 former corrections professionals in a letter to Gov. Kasich, which can be accessed here http://bit.ly/2ua1QVq. “A lethal injection execution of a prisoner is a complex and difficult process, with very little margin for error. As you well know, Ohio is the only state in the nation that unsuccessfully attempted a lethal injection execution, when Romell Broom, and the team attempting to complete his execution, struggled to gain venous access for over two hours in September 2009. That was the last time Ohio attempted to use a three-drug protocol.”
Five innocent men who were freed from Ohio’s death row recently launched online petitions, signed by over 27,000 Ohioans and citizens around the country asking Gov. Kasich to not restart executions. “There is too much risk associated with Ohio’s death penalty. We are some of the nine men exonerated from Ohio’s death row, proving that innocent people have been sentenced to death in our state. We cannot restart executions until there are better safeguards in place to ensure that Ohio never executes an innocent person, which would be unthinkable,” said the exonerated death row survivors whose petition can be accessed here:https://otse.org/kasich_letter/.
Nearly 200 faith leaders from diverse religious traditions in Ohio and across the country also expressed their opposition to the restarting of executions in Ohio. Prominent signatories include Jim Tobin of the Ohio Catholic Conference, Tom Smith of the Ohio Council of Churches, Pastor Carl Ruby of Central Christian Church and dozens of others.
The faith leaders’ letter, which can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/2u7OYgH, notes that “the scriptures and sacred texts of all our faiths demand fairness, accuracy, and mercy at a threshold far higher than the law currently prescribes. There is no question in any of our minds that if Ohio is to resume the death penalty, it must be done fairly. Therefore, as people of faith, we affirm our support for implementation of reforms recommended by the Ohio Supreme Court Joint Task Force on the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty before any execution takes place.”
This morning’s press conference can be accessed here: https://www.facebook.com/ohioanstostopexecutions/videos/1517000778338250/
If you would like more information or to speak with a signatory to one of the letters or member of the Joint Task Force on the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty, or need an image of the petitions being delivered, please contact Laura Burstein, 202-626-6868 (o); 202-669-3411 (c); [email protected]; @LauraBurstein1 or Tristin Aaron, 718-938-4078, [email protected].