Does Ohio Have the Death Penalty? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Did you know that the state of Ohio has the death penalty? Here’s everything you need to know. Once 1885 came about, this was the stop of public hangings in Ohio. These public hangings were done by each individual county within Ohio. However, in 1885, all executions and death row inmates were transferred over to the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio.

It was not until 1897 when the state of Ohio first used the electric chair. The electric chair was used in executing 3 women and 312 men. In 1963, Donald Reinbolt was the last inmate to be executed with the electric chair.

Does Ohio Have the Death Penalty?

Yes, the state of Ohio has the death penalty. It was reinstated back in 1974, but Ohio did not start executing people until 1999.

Ohio Death Penalty Procedures

In the state of Ohio, when the prosecution is seeking to convict for the death penalty, the jury will be the deciding factor. The jury will be required to be unanimous in this decision.

In the case of a hung jury, during the penalty phase portion of the trial, the defendant will get a life sentence. This will even happen if one juror opposes the death penalty. There will be no retrial.

When it comes down to clemency, the governor of Ohio has that power only after the governor gets a non-binding recommendation thanks to the Ohio Parole Board.

Famous Death Row Cases

In Ohio, there have been many famous death row cases that have gone through the justice system.

First up is Sandra Lockett. Sandra was sentenced to death for being involved in a murder and robbery. During that time, the state of Ohio’s statute gave the judges in these capital cases to utilize three factors. However, let’s say that none of these free factors were involved in the case, then this grants the judge to sentence the defendant to death.

In Lockett’s case, she appealed it all the way to the United States Supreme Court. In 1978, with the case Lockett v. Ohio, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Lockett in this capital case “not to prevent from considering, this factor, in any aspect of Lockett’s record or character in any circumstance during this offense that the defendant should be sentenced less than death.” In short, Lockett’s death sentence was overturned.

Second up is Richard Cooey. Cooey was the inmate that challenged the state of Ohio’s lethal injection practice. Cooey stated that the state of Ohio’s lethal injection process would cause a very painful death for the inmate. Unfortunately, the United States Court of Appeals in the Six Circuit dismissed Cooey’s claim. On October 12, 2008, Cooey was executed.

The third final famous case we are going to talk about today is Romell Broom. Broom was convicted of murder and kidnapping back in 1984. Broom was then sentenced to death. Broom was set to be executed on September 15, 2009. For Brooms the correctional personnel in charge of the execution spent nearly two hours locating a suitable vein for the execution on Broom, but they failed at inserting a needle to administer the drugs.

However, during Broom’s execution, he was helping the correctional personnel to find a good vein, but they still could not find one. This is when the prison director got in contact with the governor, who then signed a stay of execution. This would allow the state of Ohio to investigate the lethal injection process. As of today, Broom is still on Ohio’s death row list.

Ohio’s Most Notable Exonerations

In Ohio, there have been many famous exonerations that have gone through the justice system. We will be discussing a few cases.

First up is Joe D’Ambrosio. In 2012, D’Ambrosio was exonerated. This was nearly 23 years after D’Ambrosio was convicted. It took a Federal District Court to overturn his conviction back in 2006. This was all because the state was withholding pertinent evidence from D’Ambrosio defense team. Originally the federal court was going to allow the state to re-try him, but right before the trial was going to start; the state then revealed that was even more pertinent evidence and requested the trial to be delayed.

Unfortunately, the state did not get back to the case in a timely manner. And the state’s key witness died. It was not until 2010 when the District Court was no longer going to allow the state to re-try D’Ambrosio due to the prosecutors’ misconduct. Then in early 2012, the United States Supreme court rejected to hear what the state of Ohio had to say in their appeal, which in result ended this case once and for all.

The second case is going to be Gary Lamar James and Timothy Howard. James and Howard were both sentenced to death back in 1976. They were convicted of doing a bank robbery in Columbus, Ohio. During this bank robbery, one of the guards in the bank was murdered. Both James and Howard were released from prison back in 2003. They were released after new evidence has surfaced. This case had many conflicting witness statements along with unknown fingerprints that lead the prosecutor to dismiss every charge that was against James and Howard.

The third case is about Wiley Bridgeman and Ricky Jackson. Back in November of 2014, Jackson and Bridgeman were released from prison. The prosecutors on the case filed the motion that would drop all charges against Bridgeman, Jackson and along with their co-defendant Kwame Ajamu. Kwame Ajamu was released, he was not exonerated until 2003. However, a judge finally dismissed all the charges against Bridgeman and Jackson in 2014 and the charges against Ajamu in December 2014.

In a 1975 murder, there were three men convicted for this crime. They were convicted all from a testimony from a 12-year-old boy. However, all three of the defendants were ultimately sentenced to death because of the testimony. However, later, this testimony was recanted because the 12-year-old boy did not even witness the murder.

Famous Clemencies in Ohio

Ohio Governor Richard Celeste resigned the death sentences for 8 inmates in 1991. Celeste resigned the death sentences due to the disturbing racial pattern he saw during these sentencings.

The History of Reinstatement and Abolishment of the Death Penalty

Back in 1974, the state of Ohio decided they were going to reinstate the death penalty. However, just four short years later, this was abolished because it was very unconstitutional. It was not for another three years later that the current law in Ohio took place.

On March 15, 2011, HB 160, which is the Ohio abortion death penalty was introduced by Ted Celeste during the 129th General Assembly.

Firsts for the State of Ohio

Ohio had a few firsts during its time. First, the state of Ohio happened to be the first state in the United States to utilize the one-drug execution process. The state of Ohio was also the first state within the United States to use the one-drug process of either pentobarbital or sodium thiopental.

It was not until 2010 when the state of Ohio officially passed a criminal justice reform bill to help lessen the wrongful convictions. This bill was known as the DNA Access Bill.

Other Miscellaneous Ohio Death Penalty Facts

The electric chair or the death penalty machine in Ohio was commonly referred to as “Old Sparky.” The electric chair was used to execute nearly 315 inmates from 1897 to 1963. The first inmate it ever executed was 17-year-old William Haas, and the last person it executed was 29-year-old Donald Reinbolt.

In the state of Ohio, there were three botched executions that happened during a four-year time span. These botched executions were:

  • May 2006: Joseph Clark
  • May 2007: Christopher Newton
  • September 2009: Romell Broom

Even though the state of Ohio reinstated their death penalty back in 1974, they did not execute any death row inmates until 1999.

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