Ohio Bill Seeks Moratorium

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
July 13, 2000 12:00 am

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COLUMBUS, OH — Troubled by the increasing number of innocent people on death rows across the United States, a group of state lawmakers are attempting to put a moratorium on capital punishment in Ohio.

Representative. Shirley A. Smith, the main sponsor of the legislation, believes some inmates on Ohio’s Death Row have been wrongfully convicted.

“There seems to be some very bad flaws in our system,” said Rep. Smith.. “We need to re-examine all cases on appeal, especially those where DNA could be used to prove someone’s innocence.”

Although Ohio has performed only one execution since 1963, there are approximately 200 prisoners in the state that await electrocution or lethal injection.

Approving of Rep. Smith’s effort to secure a moratorium is the American Civil Liberties Union. “The use of the death penalty by the state is a final punishment, it leaves no room for regrets, or mistakes,” said Chris Link, Executive Director of the ACLU of Ohio. “The ACLU supports and applauds any strategy that will insure not a single innocent person is ever put to death.”

Governor Bob Taft said he is unaware of any specifics about Smith’s bill and has no plans to suspend death sentences because no studies have shown significant errors in Ohio’s death penalty system.

“He believes we have sufficient safeguards with the appeals process and the parole board, and the governor reviews each case,” said Gubernatorial spokeswoman Mary Anne Sharkey.

Although the bill has 16 Democratic co-sponsors, the proposed moratorium will not move along without the support of majority Republican leaders.

However, Smith has said that she has gotten calls from all over the state on this issue, and if her legislation is blocked, she will launch a petition drive to put the moratorium on the ballot.

Smith’s bill would require Taft and legislative leaders to appoint a capital punishment review commission, which would have a year to determine whether the death penalty is applied fairly in Ohio.

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