State Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain, said he understands that some relatives of homicide victims want to see the killers executed.
Nonetheless, Ramos supports abolishing the death penalty contending it is inhumane, unequally applied and too expensive. Ramos on Tuesday joined anti-death penalty advocates in Columbus to support a bill replacing Ohio’s death penalty with life in prison without parole. The bill is expected to be formally introduced later this month.
Noting the 143 people sentenced to death who were exonerated since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, Ramos said the death penalty has the potential to execute innocent people. The center said states with the death penalty have higher murder rates than states without it, which Ramos said proves it is not a deterrent to murder.
Ramos said the death penalty is unequally applied in Ohio where 47 people have been executed since 2003. The last Lorain County resident executed was Daniel Wilson in 2009 for the 1991 murder of Carol Lutz.
Ramos said 62 percent of death penalty candidates come from seven of Ohio’s 88 counties. He said counties with larger prosecutorial staffs tend to seek the death penalty disproportionately. Ramos said about 25 percent of death row inmates are from Hamilton County, but just 9 percent of Ohio’s murders occurred there.
“It is clear that it is being applied unequally,” Ramos said. “The geographic area or the socioeconomic background you come from shouldn’t determine whether you’re sentenced to death or to life in prison.”
Ramos said death penalty cases cost taxpayers millions of dollars and the length of cases, which can take a decade or more, traumatize homicide victims’ families.
“They have to keep reliving it,” he said.
Three people have been executed in Ohio this year and the next execution is scheduled for January, according to Ricky Seyfang, an Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman. New drugs will be used for the lethal injection because death penalty states like Ohio have had difficulty buying pentobarbital. Drug companies have balked at selling it for executions.
Ramos said the negatives of the death penalty outweigh the positives and support for it is decreasing. An October Gallup poll found 60 percent of Americans support the death penalty, the lowest level since 1972.
However, Dennis Will, Lorain County prosecutor, said he supports the death penalty in particularly heinous cases. He said the issue is being studied by a task force of academic experts, defense lawyers, lawmakers and prosecutors, but it is ultimately up to the Legislature.
“The legislature needs to debate this openly, vet it fully and then make a determination,” Will said. “Whatever they arrive at we will enforce.”