Thank you Gov. Strickland for not executing Kevin Keith!

Bucking the opinion of his parole board and conventional political wisdom, Ohio’s governor did something very amazing on Thursday, September 2.

Gov. Ted Strickland intervened to prevent the execution of a man convicted of murdering three people, including a child. This was no small act in a very political season. But Strickland did his job. He carefully reviewed the evidence in a terrible murder case. He recognized that the case is plagued by very serious errors in its investigation and that doubts persist about whether Keith even committed the crime at hand.

Join us in thanking Ohio’s governor for commuting Kevin Keith’s death sentence.

It is the function of executive clemency power to be a check on the judicial process because cases can slip through the cracks. And Kevin Keith’s case, not to mention his life, almost slipped right through the cracks of human error and injustice. Case after case, we see that the U.S. justice system is far too comfortable with doubt, bias and error. How could 138 people wait on death row to be executed only for it to be discovered in time that they were wrongfully convicted? What kind of system allows for such a high error rate when human life is on the line?

Gov. Strickland’s act is a bright spot amidst a continuous and macabre calendar of scheduled state killings. Perhaps authorities in all U.S. states will take notice that our death penalty system is so riddled with problems that abolition is the only true failsafe against wrongful executions.

In the meantime, we urge authorities examining cases where doubts persist and have not been fully resolved to halt executions lest they be complicit in a grave and irreversible tragedy. Certainly the leadership of Gov. Strickland could be very instructional for Georgia authorities in looking at the Troy Davis case, where courts have reviewed his case, yet serious doubts about guilt still persist.

Get Well Soon … So We Can Kill You

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, a former prison psychologist, admits that he recognizes the irony.  His state is keeping Lawrence Reynolds alive, on suicide watch, so they can execute him Tuesday morning.  Reynolds attempted suicide by overdosing on pills on Sunday and was rushed to the hospital where his life was saved.  The Governor postponed his execution, original scheduled for March 9, to give him sufficient time to recover so that the Buckeye state can kill him properly.

“It is ironic, obviously, that you would work to keep someone alive when they are scheduled to be executed,” the Governor said.  “Ironic” may be putting it mildly.  When you adopt a policy (state killing) that directly contradicts basic values (life is precious), absurd and morally dubious practices like this are inevitable.

What is ironic is that, back in May 2007, the state of Ohio executed Christopher Newton, who volunteered” to be put to death by giving up his appeals.  He even refused to cooperate with those investigating the crime he committed unless they promised to seek the death penalty.  The state of Ohio was surely assisting Newton in committing suicide on that day, though they nearly botched it by taking 90 minutes to find a vein to administer his lethal injection.

(Nationally, there have been 135 of these “voluntary” executions, representing over 10 percent of all executions since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.)

The Governor’s lame excuse for this current predicament is that his government is required to “observe the law as we understand it.”  Of course, the law also allows the Governor to commute death sentences, or even impose a moratorium on all executions in his state, as many, including Amnesty International, are urging him to do.