(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — On Thursday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost issued the 2020 Capital Crimes Report, an annual accounting and procedural history of each case that has resulted in a death sentence in Ohio since 1981.
The year 1981 was the year the state’s current death penalty law was enacted.
According to the report, from 1981 through 2020, a total of 140 death sentences remained active, with many under review in state and federal courts. Last year, one individual received a death sentence and was added to death row.
Since the law’s creation 40 years ago, 336 people have been sentenced to death in Ohio. Five of those people received two death sentences, resulting in a total of 341 death sentences.
Of the 341 death sentences, 56 have been carried out, the Executive Summary says, noting that nearly the same number of death row inmates have avoided execution either by having their sentences commuted (21) or by dying of natural causes or suicide before the sentence could be imposed (33). Eight have been removed because they are intellectually disabled and, therefore, constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty.
According to the report, Fayette County has had no capital sentences since 1981 although there have been capital sentences in various surrounding counties.
The county with the most capital sentences since 1981 is Cuyahoga County at 70 cases — 20 of which are still active.
The next county with the highest number of sentences is Hamilton County at 62 cases — 21 of which are still active.
Lucas County is third with a total of 23 cases — 8 of which are still active.
The fourth highest are both Summit County and Franklin County at 21 cases. From Summit, 7 remain active. From Franklin, 13 remain active.
Delays in the judicial system have compounded the issue. For example — at the end of 2020, there were 23 death penalty cases that had been pending for more than 10 years in federal district court. An additional nine federal cases have seen no activity for two years. There were seven cases pending in state courts that have seen no activity in the past two years. There were 11 death penalty cases for which state and federal reviews have been completed but the prosecution has yet to file a motion with the Ohio Supreme Court to set a date for the sentence to be carried out – a pointless act in the current stalemate over the method of execution.
“In short, Ohio imposes death sentences on perpetrators of brutal and revolting murders, then spends years debating, reviewing, appealing and failing to act on those decisions,” the Executive Summary says.
The report can be found at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/2020CapitalCrimesReport.