This year marks the 25th anniversary of Ohioans to Stop Executions. It has been a pivital year in terms of building momentum toward ending the death penalty in Ohio. The state Supreme Court Joint Task Force currently examining the death penalty will complete its work by the end of this year and make some critical recommendations to the legislature, such as limiting crimes eligible for the death penalty and the creation of a Racial Justice Act.
These efforts come as new and significant voices have challenged the status quo of the death penalty in the state, most notably former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton. Justice Stratton, a Republican, announced in May, “Personally I am now against the death penalty.” Additionally, Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) Prosecutor Timothy McGinty reversed his office’s position by endorsing clemency for death row inmate Billy Slagle in July. Mr. McGinty pledged to examine all previous capital convictions to determine if clemency is warranted. This development is especially notable because no Ohio prosecutor has ever undertaken such an effort.
Ohioans to Stop Executions recently renewed its call for a moratorium on executions in light of the Slagle case in August. Tragically, Billy’s situation demonstrates the utter failure of the death penalty system. He committed suicide in his cell just hours before his attorneys could tell him life-saving news: His death sentence was most likely going to be vacated by the courts due to an undisclosed plea deal 26 years ago.
The fall months will be a time of action for OTSE. We will coordinate a summit meeting for religious leaders of all faiths in Columbus, sponsor film screenings of the One for Ten project, and host our annual conference. Saturday, November 2 will mark our 25th anniversary and we will be at the Ohio Statehouse, where we will honor the hard work of dedicated individuals who have shaped OTSE for the past 25 years.
We welcome all Ohioans and friends to learn more and get involved. For more information, please visit our website.
This article first appeared in CMN’s September 2013 Newsletter.