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New legislation being introduced with goal of ending death penalty in Ohio

Ohio's last execution happened on July 18, 2018, when Robert Van Hook was put to death for a 1985 murder in Cincinnati.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Could the death penalty be coming to an end in Ohio?

That’s the goal of bipartisan legislation being introduced by four state lawmakers.

Senate Minority Leader Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) said they are moving to replace capital punishment when there "is surety of the accused" to a sentence of life in prison without parole.

"I believe it's indeed time for the state of Ohio to take the pragmatic, economically prudent, principled step to end capital punishment, which has been found to be expensive, impractical, unjust, unfair, inhumane, and in the past, even erroneous as indicated by Ohio’s 11 death row exonerees," Antonio said during a Tuesday morning press conference. "It's a punishment that's been shown to be administered with disparities across racial and economic lines, has failed as a deterrent to violent crime and has prolonged victimization to murder family victims and loved ones through the lengthy appeal process. It's our belief that we as a society must be better than our worst criminals, and better than our flawed justice system."

Others who spoke at the press conference in favor of the legislation included:

  • State Sen. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City)
  • Assistant Minority Leader Hearcel F. Craig (D-Columbus)
  • State Sen. Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester)

We streamed the entire press conference, which you can watch in full below:

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost released the following statement shortly after the press conference:

"This bill’s introduction provides a platform for a much-needed, long-overdue debate about our broken capital-punishment system, which fails day after day to deliver justice to victims and their families.

"I support the death penalty, especially for the most heinous offenders and as a way to protect our corrections officers. Consider offenders already serving a life sentence who commit murder in prison — what penalty should they receive?

"The bottom line: Ohio's death penalty is a farce and a broken promise of justice — and it must be fixed. This discussion has been a long time coming, so let's have it now. If Ohio chooses to end capital punishment, let it own the decision in the full light of day. I will stand on the other side, with the families of the slain."

The AG's office also said Yost will issue his "2022 Capital Crimes Report" later this week, which will include detailed information on each case resulting in a death sentence since Ohio instituted capital punishment in 1981.

Ohio’s last execution happened on July 18, 2018, when Robert Van Hook was put to death for a 1985 murder in Cincinnati.

During a 2020 interview with the Associated Press, Gov. Mike DeWine said he supported capital punishment as Ohio law, but has come to question its value since the days he helped write the state’s current law, which was enacted in 1981.

“DeWine called himself ‘much more skeptical about whether it meets the criteria that was certainly in my mind when I voted for the death penalty and that was that it in fact did deter crime, which to me is the moral justification,’” according to the AP’s report.

Late last year, Gov. DeWine discussed the status of the death penalty with our sister station WBNS in Columbus. He told them it remains off the table, citing threats by drug companies that don’t want the state using medicines in executions.

“There has been no executions since I've been governor and I don't plan on more executions as long as I’m the governor of the state,” he said in the WBNS interview.   

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