Following the news of the nation’s 140th death row exoneration, which was also Ohio’s 6th, comes a story in The Atlantic about another disturbing case in the Buckeye State. Tyrone Noling remains sentenced to die despite:
- No physical evidence against him
- Recanting witnesses who may have been coerced
- An alternative suspect who seems to never have been thoroughly investigated
- The state refusing to support a DNA test that might shed light on the accuracy of the conviction.
You know, the usual stuff.
Ohio has 13 executions scheduled, but wrongful death sentences, botched executions like that of Romell Broom which have led the courts to harshly admonish Ohio officials, expressions of concern from a state Supreme Court judge and a former Attorney General (authors of Ohio’s death penalty law), and from a warden who oversaw 33 executions, all suggest that the state could use a time-out.
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Georgia has set June 23 as the date for Roy Blankenship’s execution. Doubts about his guilt persist. In February, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles did the responsible thing and granted a stay to allow for DNA testing that might exonerate Blankenship or implicate an alternative suspect.
Unfortunately, the available crime scene samples were too small and degraded and the testing was inconclusive. There is still some evidence that points to another suspect; without quality physical evidence that can be conclusively tested, questions about Roy Blankenship’s guilt will probably never be resolved.
Today, Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich granted clemency to Shawn Hawkins, based on doubts that Hawkins committed the crime for which he was sentenced to die. While pondering his decision, Kasich told the media that: “We are not going to go forward with an execution where we are not certain.” This was the right, and common-sense, course of action, as it was right for the Georgia Board to grant Roy Blankenship a stay for DNA tests. Given the continuing doubts about Blankenship’s guilt, the right course of action now would be to grant clemency and commute his sentence permanently.