Will Ohio Carry Out an Execution Nobody Wants?

Johnnie Baston was sentenced to death in Ohio for the murder of Chong Hoon Mah, a South Korean immigrant.  Baston’s execution date is March 10.  At his clemency hearing last month, one of the prosecutors from the original trial emphasized that Chong Mah’s family does not want Baston executed. In fact, the family never supported the death penalty, even at the time of the trial.

Yet the Ohio Parole Board voted unanimously to reject clemency.  

The March 10 execution, if it is carried out, will be the first in which Ohio uses pentobarbital, an anesthetic selected to replace sodium thiopental, which is no longer made by an FDA-accredited company.  But the manufacturer of the pentobarbital Ohio plans to use has objected strenuously to its product being employed in any execution.  Lundbeck, based in Denmark, wrote Ohio officials saying:

“Lundbeck is dedicated to saving people’s lives. Use of our products to end lives contradicts everything we’re in business to do.”

So far, Ohio officials have been unmoved by this appeal to medical ethics.

Ohio’s death penalty has acquired a kind of blind bureaucratic momentum that makes it difficult to stop an execution even when nobody wants it.  Fortunately, the Governor of Ohio does have the power to overrule the Parole Board’s advisory opinion and grant clemency. 

He should, and we can encourage him to do so.

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