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Activist group is optimistic about ending death penalty in Ohio

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California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
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Wikimedia

Ohioans to Stop Executions is optimistic about working with the large GOP-majority state legislature this year for its cause.

Allison Cohen, the group’s new executive director, says several bills received bi-partisan support last year.

"We had a lot of progress last year,” said Cohen. “We had the most bipartisan support that we've ever received for death penalty repeal. And the bills went the farthest in the process that they've ever gone."

Cohen said in 2022, lawmakers in the Ohio Senate and House introduced a bill in each chamber to repeal the death penalty. They were identical bills that garnered the most bi-partisan support of co-sponsors for the issue. Four Republican co-sponsors joined the Senate bill with six Democrats. In the House chamber, seven Republicans joined with 17 Democrats. The Senate held two hearings in its chamber for the bill. The House bill had five hearings.

Cohen says OTSE’s efforts will grow in 2023. "Right now, we have over 80 coalitions signed on to this effort, and we're going to build that list as well. And it'll be step by step, brick by brick. These campaigns take time, but we're confident that we will succeed."

Ohio’s executions have been on hold since 2019, after Gov. Mike DeWine announced that any scheduled executions would not be carried out until the state devises a new execution protocol, which would need to be approved by the courts.

"I think that people just have to realize that the death penalty does not work,” said Cohen. “It's on its way out, and that we can't fix it. We can't find a humane way to do it. It's really just time to stop wasting our time and our money on it."

Cohen said she cannot imagine the pain families of murdered loved ones experience through seeking justice, but she does not think the death penalty is the answer. "When a death sentence comes down, it takes decades. And those decades are filled with uncertainty and pain and re-opening of those wounds. And I think that we can do better for those families and possibly even divert the resources that we're spending on the death penalty to help those families in this crucial time."

Cohen does not think the death penalty will continue in Ohio. "I really think that given the problems in obtaining the drugs, given the long, long appeals process, given the fact that there are really no alternatives. I'm really hopeful that we've seen the last execution in Ohio."

Debbie Holmes began her career in broadcasting in Columbus after graduating from The Ohio State University. She left the Buckeye state to pursue a career in television news and worked as a reporter and anchor in Moline, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee.