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Death Penalty Debate: Are Ohio Lawmakers Listening?

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Thursday, November 18, 2021   

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Legislation to abolish the death penalty in Ohio is set to have a fourth hearing today.

The House Criminal Justice Committee will hear from interested parties on House Bill 183, which has a companion bill in the Senate.

Rev. Dr. Crystal Walker, executive director of the group Greater Dayton Christian Connections, whose son was murdered in 2013, said the death penalty cannot bring him back, and she would not want his killer's family to feel the loss she feels.

"All it does is cause sorrow and pain to another family," Walker asserted. "And we have to stop this because someone loves the perpetrator as much as they love the victim."

Opponents of repeal argued the death penalty is reserved for the "worst of the worst," offenders, and say ending it would put serial killers or mass murderers on the same level as someone else committing an aggravated murder. Ohio has not held an execution since 2018 due to problems acquiring a suitable drug for lethal injections.

Jonathan Mann, vice chair of Ohioans to Stop Executions, said he struggled with the moral implications of the death penalty after his father was murdered in 2017. He contended it is not a deterrent, adding there currently is no legal means for executions in the state.

"The cocktail of drugs that had been previously used for lethal injection have been referred to as barbaric and inhumane," Mann pointed out. "And what we're talking about here from the death penalty perspective and ending lives is philosophically humane ways to do that -- that currently does not exist."

Melinda Elkins Johnson of Barberton, the daughter of murder victim, said when her mother was murdered in 1998, her husband was falsely accused and could have been given the death penalty. She said no one believed her claims he was innocent, and did not view her as a victim herself.

"Not one time did victims' assistance or the prosecutor's office attempt to contact me for any reason," Johnson recounted. "I was given no services. I was completely a pariah in their eyes."

Proponents of repeal argued money used for executions should be redirected to provide assistance to victim's families, including mental-health care, and money to pay for funeral costs, mortgages or tuition.


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