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Government & Politics

Harvard Report Finds Majority of Ohio Death Row Inmates Likely Have Mental Impairments

photo of prison bars
26 men are scheduled to be executed in Ohio in the next three years. Harvard's report reviewed all of these cases, " relying on available legal pleadings, court opinions, and where accessible, trial testimony."

Ohio has more execution dates set than any other state. And a new report from Harvard Law School shows most of those condemned inmates have serious mental and intellectual impairments. And Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler reports the group suggests that could pose a constitutional problem.

Of the 26 Ohio men set to be executed in the next three years, a review by Harvard Law’s Fair Punishment Project shows almost two thirds suffered serious childhood trauma. Nearly a quarter are likely severely mentally ill and 42 percent have other impairments such as brain injuries. And the group’s Jessica Brand says often, their lawyers didn’t investigate these issues to present them at trial.

“It’s just this horrible trifecta of things where you have people who are the most impaired received some poor representation at some time in their cases and then are facing the most severe penalty possible," Brand says.

While findings in other states are similar, Brand says this could run afoul of the Eighth Amendment, which limits the death penalty to the most morally reprehensible people.