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Ohio bill could take death penalty off the table for prosecutors

Death Chamber at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility
Posted at 10:29 PM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 23:21:07-05

As Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced a potential death penalty case Tuesday morning, Ohio lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are working to take that legal option off the table.

It’s an effort that began long before Wednesday's announcement, and one a Republican from Loveland is now leading.

“We don’t have any ability to really humanely execute these people,” said Ohio State Rep. Jean Schmidt.

Once a strong proponent of the death penalty, Schmidt now believes its an immoral and impractical option even in extreme cases. She also said she recognizes the pain victims and their families face.

“This charge that that grand jury returned includes the potential penalty of death for what he did to these two people,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Deters said, referring to the charges against Desean Brown for his involvement in the deaths of Nyteisha and Nylo Lattimore late last year.

Schmidt said she’s familiar with the case. She said she believes, if convicted, Brown deserves life without parole.

“I want him to spend the rest of his life in prison. I want him to think every day about the horrendous action that he did. I want him to be filled with guilt. I also want him to have remorse,” Schmidt said.

She knows that can only happen if the person convicted is kept alive.

Schmidt believes executions don’t work for three specific reasons: the chance of inadvertently putting innocent people to death, the lack of a reliable and humane lethal injection cocktail and the sheer cost of executions.

“From a conservative fiscal standpoint, it makes more sense to keep them housed in prison for the rest of their life then to try to execute them, because the length of time is about 30 years before we execute them, and during that time, it's appeal after appeal after appeal, which costs we taxpayers money,” Schmidt said.

The bill she’s backing, which she said is not retroactive, has bipartisan support – and with the state’s lethal injections under an official moratorium, Schmidt believes now is the time for change.

“I’ll be clear, it’s going to be a very heavy lift, but I’m finding people on my side of the aisle very sympathetic to it,” she said.

The bill will be formally introduced in the coming weeks.