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Ohio's death penalty taskforce recommends a major overhaul
New steps would protect against defendants and ensure equal application of the death penalty

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
Retired appeals Judge James Brogan was appointed to head the task force set up by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor.
Courtesy of Ohio Supreme Court
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A panel set up by the Ohio Supreme Court is recommending a major overhaul of Ohio’s death penalty, with changes designed to weed out false confessions, testimony and science – and to ensure the law is applied equally around the state.

The panel was appointed two years ago to come up with a ways to try to ensure innocent men and women are not executed. Retired appeals court Judge James Brogan heads the committee, and notes that it was never charged with the question of whether Ohio should have a death penalty at all.

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“If we’re going to have it in Ohio we want to make sure that only the actual guilty people are the persons who are going to face the death penalty and that it be equally applied and fairly applied.”

But a veteran prosecutor and committee member, Ron O’Brien, is criticizing recommendations, saying they limit the law so much it would be impossible to execute someone like Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Brogan says 17 percent of wrongful death penalty convictions nationwide have included false confessions, so one key recommendation would require police to record confessions “from beginning to end.”

The recommendations would also try to address a wide disparity in death penalty cases tied to the race of victims. Brogan notes death sentences are four times more likely when victims are white..

The report goes next to the Ohio Supreme Court and Ohio Bar Association, but many of its recommendations will require the Ohio Legislature to act. 

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