Lengthy appeals and an aging inmate population could mean that more convicted killers die of natural causes in prison than by execution.
Should the death penalty appeals process take years to complete?
Find out how long it takes to execute death row inmates in Ohio and the U.S. with this WCPO interactive chart based on state and national datasets.
Convicted killers sentenced to death in Ohio and other states are guaranteed automatic appeals.
The appeals process can take years to complete. But should it?
That’s the troubling question behind a recent study by the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization.
The study, which uses data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and other sources, found that, nationwide, inmates executed since 2001 have typically spent about 13 years waiting to die.
But in Ohio, convicted killers executed since 2001 spent an average of nearly 17 years on death row, a WCPO analysis of Ohio’s 2013 Capital Crimes Annual Report found.
Eleven of the 52 inmates executed in Ohio during that time spent more than 20 years on death row. The average age at sentencing jumped from about 28 to 35, and the average age at execution rose from about 48 to 52.
Thirteen Ohio death row inmates died of natural causes before they could be executed. With a lengthy appeals process and an aging death row population nationwide, the study suggests that many more convicted killers could die in prison before their scheduled execution dates.
Opponents of capital punishment believe that making inmates wait decades to die is a punishment that may violate constitutional rights. Death row inmates are isolated from the general prison population, and have limited visitation, exercise, educational and medical resources, they say.
Even supporters acknowledge that lengthy appeals take a toll on victims’ families and taxpayers, who foot the bill to house and feed inmates, and in some cases, finance their legal defense.
States could pay an estimated $3 million in legal costs for a single execution, according to a 2009 Death Penalty Information Center study.
Yet, without thorough appeals, mistakes might be overlooked, and innocent people might be put to death – something neither friend nor foe of capital punishment wants to see.
Use the interactive chart below to compare the average amount of time it has taken to execute convicted killers in Ohio, and the U.S. since 2001.
Roll over and click areas of the chart to see details on death row inmates.
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