December 19, 2014

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Ramos pushes for death penalty moratorium

Dan Ramos

Dan Ramos

Responding to last Thursday’s lengthy execution, state Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain, is asking Gov. Kasich for a death penalty moratorium.

In a Wednesday letter to Kasich, Ramos and state Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, said a moratorium is needed until a thorough review is done of the execution of Dennis McGuire.

“We applaud your leadership in commuting four death row inmates to life without parole,” Ramos and Antonio wrote. “But we implore you to use your executive power to grant a full moratorium until we can ensure that humane and constitutional policies are in place.”

While executions in recent years have taken about 10 minutes, McGuire’s took 26 minutes. Because drug companies have recently refused to sell pentobarbital for executions, an untried lethal drug combination was used. Witnesses said McGuire struggled to breathe during the execution.

Ricky Seyfang, an Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman, said McGuire’s execution is being reviewed, as are all executions. Seyfang said it was premature to comment on the proposed moratorium. The next execution is scheduled for March 19.

Ramos wrote that circumstances of the death of McGuire — who raped and fatally stabbed Joy Stewart in Preble County in 1989 — appear to conflict with the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Ramos, who co-sponsored a bill to ban the death penalty in December, said it also raises ethical and moral questions.

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said Wednesday that the Kasich supports the death penalty. Nichols said Kasich concurs with federal Judge Gregory Frost’s Jan. 13 ruling allowing McGuire’s execution. Frost quoted previous rulings that “the Constitution does not demand a pain-free execution” in response to arguments about the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

An October Gallup poll found 60 percent of Americans support the death penalty, the lowest level since 1972. Support was stronger with Republicans — the poll found 81 percent of Republicans support the death penalty compared with 47 percent of Democrats.

Nonetheless, Nichols said the Republican Kasich’s re-election bid doesn’t factor into his consideration of a moratorium.

“I would hate for anyone to politicize this,” Nichols said. “It has absolutely nothing to do with politics.”

Despite Nichols’ comments, Ramos said in an interview that he would still like a response from Kasich. Ramos has previously argued that the death penalty can potentially execute innocent people and is discriminatory.

He noted 143 people sentenced to death have been exonerated since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Ramos said counties with larger prosecutorial staffs tend to seek the death penalty more often. He noted 62 percent of death penalty candidates are from just seven of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Ramos said a hearing on the bill — co-sponsored by 11 Democrats and one Republican — was held today. While Republicans have majorities in both the House and Senate, Ramos said he hasn’t given up hope for the bill or a moratorium.

“The eyes of the world are on Ohio at the moment,” Ramos said. “Most everybody in the country knows a governor has this power.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.