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Panel recommends changes to Ohio's death penalty

 
Panel recommends changes to Ohio's death penalty
Posted April 11th, 2014 @ 3:04am by WTVN Newsroom

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- Prosecutors would need much stronger evidence against a murder defendant before bringing death penalty charges under recommendations proposed by a statewide capital punishment review committee.

The panel that spent more than two years studying changes to Ohio's death penalty law proposes that capital charges require biological or DNA evidence or a videotaped confession.

"If the defendant alleges they are innocent and the evidence against them is circumstantial, I think there is some discomfort now-a-days with seeking a death sentence knowing what we know about the amount of exonerations we've seen," said Nick Worner, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

The committee convened by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor met Thursday to review its final report and 56 total recommendations. Most would have to be approved by lawmakers at the Statehouse and it's unclear what level of support they may have there.

"It appears to me that there is still very strong support for the death penalty in Ohio for those cases where we think that it's deserved. I don't see that changing for the next 20 to 30 years at least," said John Murphy, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, an opponent of the panel's review.

Murphy says one of the biggest issues with the death penalty right now is that it drags out too long.

"We need to speed up the process," he said.

The 71-page draft report obtained by the Associated Press on Wednesday also proposes eliminating cases where an aggravated murder was committed during a burglary, robbery or rape and banning the execution of the mentally ill.

"Even if you aren't there yet with abolishment of the death penalty, at the very least you have to do everything you can to ensure that it's applied fairly and only to the worst of the worst," said Worner. The ACLU opposes the death penalty.

Worner praised the work of the panel saying that it has addressed a lot of the issues the death penalty is facing today.

Veteran prosecutor Ron O'Brien of Franklin County told the panel that he believes many of the recommendations being made would effectively put an end to the death penalty in Ohio.

"We think the current law is fine. We never did support doing this study," said Murphy.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story)

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