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Peter Wagner, Executive Director
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Resolution supporting a Moratorium on the Death Penalty

WHEREAS death sentences are reserved for the poor:

  • About 90 percent of all people facing capital charges cannot afford their own attorney.
  • No state, including Ohio, has met standards developed by the American Bar Association (ABA) for appointment, performance and compensation of counsel for indigent prisoners.

WHEREAS there is ample evidence that the death penalty is applied in a racist manner:

  • In 1987, in McCleskey v. Kemp, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to act on data demonstrating the continuing reality of racial bias.
  • In 1990, the U.S. General Accounting Office reported "a pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in charging, sentencing and imposition of the death penalty."
  • Nationwide, 82 percent of those put to death had been convicted of murdering a white person, even though people of color are the victims in more than half of all homicides.
  • Nearly 50% of those on Ohio's death row are African American, although less than 12% of Ohio's population is African American.

WHEREAS prisoner appeals have been severely curtailed, increasing the risk of imprisonment and execution of innocent people:

  • Ohio has sentenced two people to death who were later found innocent and released. Had their sentences not been previously commuted to life in prison, they would have been executed before their innocence was discovered.
  • In a series of rulings since 1991, the Supreme Court has drastically restricted the rights of death row prisoners to appeal their convictions and death sentences in federal courts, even in cases where prisoners present compelling evidence of innocence.
  • In 1996, new legislation drastically limited federal court review of death penalty appeals and gutted public funding of legal aid services for death row prisoners.

WHEREAS the American Bar Association has concluded that administration of the death penalty is "a haphazard maze of unfair practices with no internal consistency" and has called for a moratorium on executions.

WHEREAS Ohio has a prevalence of mentally ill people on its death row and Ohio has executed people with severe mental illness; an examination of the way the state deals with mental illness and the death penalty is sorely needed.

WHEREAS nearly 40% of death row inmates were prosecuted in one of only two Ohio counties, raising concerns about geographic disparities.

WHEREAS Ohio has over 200 people on its death row.

Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Prison Policy Initiative calls on the Governor and our representatives in the Ohio Legislature, the President and our representatives in the U.S. Congress, to enact and adopt legislation imposing a moratorium on executions at least until policies and procedures are implemented which:

  • Ensure that death penalty cases are administered fairly and impartially in accordance with basic due process.
  • Eliminate the risk that innocent persons may be executed.
  • Prevent the execution of mentally disabled persons, people under the age of 18 at the time of their offenses, and foreign nationals whose consular rights were violated.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this resolution shall be forwarded to the Governor of Ohio, our state representatives, the President of the United States and members of our Congressional delegation.

Prison Policy Initiative
PO Box 20038
Cincinnati OH 45220
March 11, 2004



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