COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – There is a growing push in the Ohio Statehouse to abolish the death penalty in the state. There are bipartisan bills in both the Ohio Senate and Ohio House to end capital punishment, and Wednesday morning, House Bill 259 had its first committee hearing.
“There are so many reasons to end the death penalty: cost, doesn’t deter crime, human element and we might get it wrong,” Representative Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) said.
The bipartisan House bill is sponsored by Representatives Schmidt and Adam Miller (D-Columbus). The legislation would abolish the death penalty, replacing most sentences that might call for it to life in prison without parole.
“They’re going to end up spending the rest of their life in prison, without a whole lot of sunshine,” Schmidt said. “And I think that’s good.”
But, opponents of the legislation, like Executive Director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association Louis Tobin said life without parole is not sufficient for some cases, like someone who commits multiple murders.
“The person who did that is already facing life without parole for the first murder, so where’s the justice for the second victim or third victim if there’s no death penalty,” Tobin said. “There’s nothing progressive, there’s nothing conservative, there’s nothing compassionate about allowing people to commit acts like that without some sort of ultimate accountability to their victims and to the community.”
Schmidt said the death penalty does not work as a deterrent.
“If you think it’s going to deter crime — it’s not,” Schmidt said. “We see rapid crime continuing in Ohio and across the nation.”
Tobin said the argument that the death penalty doesn’t deter crime is because it is not being used effectively.
“If we are using the death penalty, the way we’re supposed to use the death penalty, we’d be saving 3 to 11 lives every year,” Tobin said.
According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, 122 inmates are on death row with 31 of those having execution dates scheduled.
Although 31 execution dates are set, those will likely get postponed. Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) has said that he “does not anticipate” any executions while he is governor.
But other opponents of the bill said the death penalty needs to be put in place — with specific guidelines.
“I think the standards should be very high,” Rep. Josh Williams (R-Sylvania said). “I think there should be clear and convincing evidence, I think DNA should be present.”
The bill also adds $10 million to the state’s Crime Victim Compensation Program.
Both the speaker of the Ohio House and the Senate president are against abolishing the death penalty but have said they will wait and see how committee hearings play out and how much support the legislation garners before deciding whether to bring it to the floor.