Should State Panels, Not Prosecutors, Decide on Death Penalties?


Curing geographical unfairness in Ohio capital-punishment cases may require a statewide commission, not county prosecutors, to make the decision when to seek the death penalty, says retired appeals court judge James Brogan, who chairs a Joint Task Force to Study Administration of the Death Penalty. “As (Ohio Supreme Court) Justice Paul Pfeifer said, it's a lottery whether or not you get the death penalty depending on where you live,” Brogan told the panel, reports the Columbus Dispatch. “The solution may not be the abolition of the death penalty. The goal is fair administration of the death penalty.”

Brogan said the task force should consider a plan similar to one in Tennessee, where county prosecutors submit murder cases to a statewide commission, which has the ultimate authority to decide if a death sentence should be pursued. Don't expect prosecutors — two of whom are on the task force — to embrace the idea. Joseph Deters, a Republican from Hamilton County, and Dennis Watkins, a Democrat from Trumbull County, are both staunch capital-punishment supporters. Deters gave the committee six proposed changes to Ohio law he said would make it easier to obtain death sentences and make the process more friendly to murder-victim families.

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