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Divisions Mark Ohio Death Penalty Panel

An Ohio Supreme Court committee studying changes to the state's death penalty law is almost guaranteed to produce majority and minority reports on their findings when its work is finished later this year. The publication of competing reports raises questions about the committee's impact and what if any recommendations lawmakers will consider. Three of the committee's most recent votes emphasize the panel's divisions. Members last month approved measures to strip the law of many of the factors that elevate murder cases to possible death penalty prosecutions, such as rape, robbery and burglary. The divided committee also recommended that a statewide panel trump local prosecutors on decisions whether to bring death penalty cases. The committee also called for a panel to guard against possible racial bias in prosecutions.