On the night of March 6, three-and-a-half hours before he was scheduled to depart for Ohio's death chamber in Lucasville to be executed, Lawrence Reynolds was found unconscious, possibly due to a drug overdose. Reynolds was taken to St. Elizabeth Hospital where he is expected to survive. His execution was postponed for one week.
When sharing with friends that the state was trying to keep a man alive in order to kill him, their mildest response was, ''It don't make sense!''
Something grotesque, and horrible, and barbaric is happening in the State of Ohio. Ohio is executing one human being every month. Further executions are scheduled, one a month, through October. At this time, more executions are scheduled in Ohio than in Texas.
Ultimate responsibility for carrying out the death penalty in Ohio belongs to the Methodist minister who serves as governor of Ohio.
Even when the Adult Parole Authority voted 5 to 2 against the execution of Jason Getsy, the governor rejected the recommendation of the parole board. Getsy committed a murder that was planned and ordered by an older man. The older man did not get the death sentence. Getsy did. The Parole Authority perceived the difference in the two sentences to be arbitrary and unjust. Getsy, a model inmate, was executed.
We should look at ourselves in the mirror. As long as the governor has majority support, this is likely to determine what he does and does not do.
American Bar Association
What makes Ohio's love affair with the death penalty so grotesque is that the most prestigious bodies in the legal profession have concluded that it is impossible to administer the death penalty in a fair and just manner.
In 1997 the American Bar Association called for a moratorium on all executions in the United States. An ABA committee that included a former justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, a magistrate judge to whom death penalty cases are assigned in southwestern Ohio, numerous lawyers and law school professors, a state senator, and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio, found Ohio not in compliance with minimum ABA standards.
For example, Ohio is ''not in compliance'' with the requirement that biological evidence should be preserved for as long as the defendant remains incarcerated. After the trials of inmates who participated in the Lucasville prison uprising, all physical evidence collected during the investigation was destroyed by the state of Ohio even though five capital cases were still being appealed.
The ABA committee also found Ohio only ''partially in compliance'' with the requirement that law enforcement agencies ''should videotape the entirety of custodial interrogations . . . or, where videotaping is impractical, audio record the entirety of such custodial interrogations.''
The importance of this requirement is suggested by the capital trial of a young man in Ashtabula. A police officer was murdered. A 12-year-old girl was the only person to have witnessed the crime from beginning to end. She was not in custody. However, an interview with her was videotaped the evening of the killing. By the time of trial her testimony had dramatically changed. The videotape is the defendant's best evidence of what this witness saw.
American Law Institute
An even more prestigious organization in the legal profession has given up on any effort to find a fair way to carry out capital punishment.
The governing Council of the American Law Institute (ALI) includes judges who serve on the Supreme Courts of four states, six U.S. Courts of Appeal, four U.S. District Courts, and representatives of some of the most prestigious law firms and law schools in the country. Simply, it is the creme de la creme of the legal profession.
In October 2009 the ALI officially withdrew capital punishment from its Model Penal Code, concluding that capital punishment ''is hopelessly flawed and broken beyond repair.''
In the early 1960s the ALI proposed a procedure for capital punishment set forth in Section 210.6 of its Model Penal Code. This provision was generally ignored until 1972, when in Furman v. Georgia the United States Supreme Court found that the death penalty was being administered in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner. States wishing to resume executions, including Ohio, thereupon passed new laws using Section 210.6 as a model.
The ALI now states that when first proposed, Section 210.6 was ''an untested innovation.'' Since then, there have been ''decades of experience with death-penalty systems modeled on'' that language, the ALI continues. ''On the whole the section has not withstood the tests of time and experience.''
Why do Ohioans support the death penalty?
I think the answer is the legacy of slavery, and the violence routinely employed to keep slaves ''in their place.''
Northern Ohio was settled from the East. New England states claimed Ohio as their ''Western Reserve.'' John Brown lived for many years in Hudson, near Cleveland. Today, the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer opposes capital punishment.
Southern Ohio, on the other hand, was settled from the South. As they crossed the Ohio River, settlers from Kentucky brought their racism with them. Today Hamilton County, which is the City of Cincinnati and surrounding area, accounts for about a quarter of the defendants in Ohio who are sentenced to death. And approximately half of the prisoners on Ohio's Death Row are African-Americans.
Some people say, Ohio will give up capital punishment when the public understands that it costs more to kill a man than to keep him in prison for life. I hope so.
But I feel a need to appeal to Ohioans' sense of honor. Friends, we are running our own little Holocaust here in the Buckeye State. Is that how we want Ohio to be known to the rest of the world?
Lynd is a civil rights activist, playwright and attorney who resides in Niles.