Ohio top judge questions application of death penalty law

[JURIST] The Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, Maureen O'Connor [official profile], on Thursday opened the first meeting [press release] of the state's death panel review committee by reiterating that the purpose of the committee is not to question whether Ohio should have the death penalty [JURIST news archive], but rather to provide "guidance on the current laws on the subject, the practices in other jurisdictions, the data, the costs, and many other aspects associated with the death penalty." O'Connor announced the formation of the committee [JURIST report] in September, stating that it would be responsible for ensuring that the law is "administered in the most fair, efficient, and judicious manner possible." The committee, a joint task force between the Supreme Court of Ohio and the Ohio State Bar Association [official websites], is being chaired by Retired Judge James Brogan of the Ohio Second District Court of Appeals and includes judges, prosecuting attorneys, criminal defense counsel, legislators and academics. During the committee's opening meeting Brogan questioned the application of the death penalty law, citing prosecutorial discretion in seeking the death penalty and the role economics could play in the decision making process. Brogan also indicated that the committee would address whether the standard of proof should be heightened to a "beyond all doubt" standard in death penalty cases as opposed to the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard used in other criminal cases. The committee will be reviewing death penalty laws and procedures from other jurisdictions and analyzing the data and costs associated with those laws. They will also review information included in the American Bar Association's Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project [materials] in order to "identify areas in need of action and recommend the course of action." Based upon their findings, the committee will develop a comprehensive set of recommendations, and present their proposals next year to the state for consideration.

Ohio is currently under an unofficial death penalty moratorium [AP report] as the federal courts consider the constitutionality of the state's death penalty procedure. In December 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a challenge [JURIST report] to the lethal injection method of execution and indicated that they would not hear further cases regarding lethal injection until the Ohio General Assembly [official website] explicitly expanded state review of death penalty cases. In November 2009, Ohio adopted a single-drug lethal injection protocol [JURIST report], replacing the previously used three-drug method. The single-drug lethal injection method has faced numerous challenges, with one case reaching the US Supreme Court [official website]. In March 2010, the Supreme Court refused [JURIST report] to stay the execution of an Ohio inmate challenging the state's single-drug execution protocol. Ohio conducted its first execution [JURIST report] using the new procedure in December 2009. The change in procedure came after the state undertook a review [JURIST report] of its lethal injection practices in September 2009, following the planned execution of inmate Romell Broom failed when a suitable vein for the drugs' administration could not be found.

 

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