Home Law OPINION: Ohio’s string of death penalty mistakes casts doubt over capital punishment’s usefulness

OPINION: Ohio’s string of death penalty mistakes casts doubt over capital punishment’s usefulness

6 min read
Lethal injection table.

After multiple mistakes in executing capital punishment, opinion writer Tim Zelina argues it’s time to leave the death penalty behind.

More than 100 countries have abolished the death penalty on the grounds it is an excessively cruel punishment. In the United States, Ohio is one of 30 states in the majority that still have not abolished the death penalty. However, only 6 of those 30 states have had an execution in the last five years, and only 11 in the last decade. Some may say this is a good thing, but recent events have shown the government should not be trusted to execute one of its own citizens.

In November of 2017, death row inmate Alva Campbell spent nearly 30 minutes being pricked and prodded by health care personnel before the execution was delayed as they could not locate a vein due to his illnesses. Campbell’s lawyer said his client was terrified during the ordeal. He died months later from poor health after Gov. Kasich pardoned his execution.

In Campbell’s case, we see a man who, though almost certainly guilty, still underwent a very cruel form of accidental torture. Yes, this man is a monster and it is hard to pity him, but our justice system should not be some form of twisted vengeance. This is not how a civilized society conducts its justice. There are no winners when a person dies a painful death.

An Ohio parole board stayed the execution last week of a man convicted on two counts of aggravated murder,after a new examination of the evidence cast into doubt the certainty of the ruling.

The board uncovered a number of collaborating testimonies that challenged whether William Montgomery was involved in an incident that has had him on death row since he was 20 years old. While the comprehensive evidence does not absolve Montgomery, it does cast enough doubt that “a punishment as severe as death” is “excessive,” according to the Board.

Montgomery’s case is a stark reminder of the ability of our judicial system to make mistakes. He is not the first potentially innocent person to be sentenced to death by the a state.

In 2004, Cameron Todd Willingham was executed for the murder of his three kids. Years later, the Texas fire forensics team re-examined the evidence and realized the details had been misinterpreted, and the fire had been accidental. Willingham spent 12 years fighting off a wrongful charge of murdering his own children, and did not live to see his name cleared. That is the most nightmarish of scenarios that any of us could one day have to go through.

With even the smallest of chances that the courts could be wrong, which we have seen is true and does happen, execution should simply not occur. Yes, an innocent person could still be sent to prison, but there they can at least live and lobby for their freedom. There is no restitution or liberation for a person wrongfully killed. If wrongly executed, a person will not even know that their name has been cleared.

It’s difficult to find reason in keeping capital punishment. The death penalty is ridiculously more expensive than life in prison, costing an average of $1.26 million, compared to the $700,000 of an average life sentence. There is very little utility in the death penalty; most criminologists agree that there is no evidence to suggest the death penalty deters crime, while the case above and many others are proof it can backfire.

Ohio is best to leave this punishment in theTe past. We can achieve justice without putting innocents at risk by abolishing this practice.

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  1. Dudley Sharp

    April 6, 2018 at 5:29 PM

    The Willingham fire has never been determined to be accidental and cannot be.

    Rebuttal: “Trial by Fire: Did Texas execute an innocent man?”, David Grann, The New Yorker, 9/7/2009:
    Cameron Todd Willingham: Media meltdown & the death penalty
    Dudley Sharp


  2. Dudley Sharp

    April 6, 2018 at 5:35 PM

    Needle pricks are not torture.

    Rebuttal: Botched Executions


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