Ohio’s 1981 death penalty has been applied inconsistently, reports the Associated Press. Race, the extensive use of plea bargains, and the crime’s location all play a role in who is sentenced to death. The AP analyzed 1,936 indictments reported to the Ohio Supreme Court from October 1981 through 2002. Offenders facing a death penalty charge for killing a white person were twice as likely to go to death row than if they had killed a black.
In Cuyahoga County, a liberal stronghold, 8 percent of offenders charged with a capital crime received a death sentence. In conservative Hamilton County, 43 percent of capital offenders were sent to death row. State Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer, who co-sponsored the death penalty law in 1981 when he was a in the legislature, said the findings are disturbing. Prosecutors say community standards affect the outcome of a case as well as the prosecutor’s willingness to deal. “Our criminal justice system doesn’t always mete out justice and fairness in neat little packages – sometimes it’s a little rough,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Martin Frantz. “It’s not something you can compute with calculus or with any kind of certainty as to who belongs and who doesn’t on death row.”