Back in the 1980s I had an opportunity few people get, but I turned it down. I had no desire to sit in the Ohio electric chair to experience how it felt.
A photographer and I had traveled to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville, Ohio, to do a package on capital punishment. A Cleveland man was about to be executed by lethal injection, so we went to do a story explaining what was to happen.
The prison warden showed us the room where the injection would occur, and he showed us the room where witnesses would watch the proceedings. He also showed us the electric chair — Old Sparky, they called it. He offered to let us sit in the chair. We declined.
West Virginia outlawed the death penalty in 1965. Kentucky has the death penalty and has executed three people since 1976, the last being in 2008. The last two people to be executed volunteered for the penalty. The last involuntary execution in Kentucky was in 1997.
In my life, I have known one person who was murdered in a robbery. It was in Ohio. The case was never solved officially, although people in the victim’s area say they know who did it. Did the perpetrator of that crime deserve the death penalty? I can’t say. Part of me says yes, but the other part says no.
For the most part I’m pro-life, which in my case also means I am anti-death penalty. A case can be made that some crimes are so horrendous that the perpetrator forfeits his or her right to existence. The problem lies in deciding who falls into that category and what happens after they are sentenced.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is a former county prosecutor who obtained a conviction and the death penalty in 2003 against a man who was accused of murdering his wife and a friend. That man is scheduled to be executed in 2023.
According to an article on the Ohio Capital Journal website, Yost believes the process of carrying out the death sentence “has grown increasingly time consuming, costly and lethargic.”
Ohio has 140 people on death row, and it has not had an execution since 2018. Gov. Mike DeWine has stayed all scheduled executions. A federal judge has said the state’s method of execution is similar to torture. For another, the makers of intravenous drugs used in executions have decided to stop supplying them to the state, the publication said.
Yost told the Ohio Capital Journal the state either needs to speed up the process or outlaw executions entirely. He’s right. Most people would probably favor eliminating the death penalty.
There are many reasons to oppose capital punishment. Some people on death row are mentally ill. Some may have had inadequate legal representation. Some may be victims of racial or ethnic bias within the justice system.
When it comes to capital punishment, there are no do-overs, and apologies after the fact can’t undo what’s been done.