Prosecutors across Ohio are changing the way they charge suspected killers. They are indicting far fewer on capital murder charges and pushing more sentences of life in prison without parole, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The number of capital murder indictments filed across the state since 2010 has plummeted by 77 percent, as just 19 have been brought this year. During the same period, the number of inmates sentenced to life without parole has spiked 92 percent. The Ohio numbers mirror a national trend involving the death penalty. Legal experts cited the high costs of taking a capital case to trial. They also said decades of appeals make the death penalty extremely burdensome on the criminal justice system and traumatic for victims’ families.
Many inmates who will spend their lives behind bars are like Robert Clark, 30, who robbed and killed an elderly couple outside their rural home in January. As the death penalty in Ohio sits stalled in a moratorium over the drugs used in executions, the emerging trends of how prosecutors handle aggravated murder cases offer insight into the way justice is meted out in Ohio courtrooms. Ohio has 141 inmates on death row. Since late 2012, when Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty took office, five men have been indicted on death-penalty charges. But there were 75 cases that met the criteria for the penalty. That means McGinty sought the death penalty in fewer than 7 percent of the possible cases.