In the rankings for the most executions per state, Ohio is starting to give Texas a run for its money. But it appears there may be a whiff of change in the air. This weekend, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, the “father of Ohio’s death penalty,” told the Columbus Dispatch that all current death row cases should be reviewed to see who truly deserves an execution. He would like the less severe cases commuted to sentences of life without parole.
“There are probably few people in Ohio that are proud of the fact we are executing people at the same pace as Texas,” said the judge, a Republican who has been elected to his current post three times. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1981, Ohio has executed 38 prisoners, while five death row inmates have been exonerated. Currently, there are 161 inmates on Ohio’s death row, and executions have been taking place at the rate of about one per month. 8 are currently scheduled through March 2011.
Judge Pfeifer, though instrumental in reviving Ohio’s death penalty as a State Senator in 1981, has reiterated to the press that capital punishment does not serve as a deterrent, and the only reason it is still in place is that “society demands retribution.” Now, Judge Pfeifer suggests that the next Governor appoint a blue ribbon commission to re-examine which inmates should be executed and which should have their sentences commuted to life.
Certainly, there would need to be a moratorium on executions while a commission examines all the cases. So why wait? The current Governor, Democrat Ted Strickland, working with this Republican Supreme Court Justice, could and should appoint such a commission and declare a moratorium on executions in Ohio right now.