"State panel won’t collect race data on death penalty," is Andrew Welsh-Huggins' updated AP filing, via the Columbus Dispatch. Here are extended excerpts:
An Ohio Supreme Court committee studying the state’s capital punishment law yesterday rejected a recommendation to collect past data to detect racial bias in death-penalty cases.
The committee also postponed votes on a recommendation to collect information in the future on all homicides that might be eligible for capital punishment as another way of detecting racial bias. The committee tabled a proposal to analyze existing death-penalty data collected by the state public defender’s office.
Those two proposals are likely to pass in the future when the committee gets more details about the recommendations, said James Brogan, a former state appeals court judge who is chairman of the committee.
Brogan said everyone agrees race shouldn’t play a role in the death penalty, but a number of studies nationally have already shown that is the case.
“We don’t know exactly the role in Ohio, although it does appear that in a number of cases, it seems more likely when a black defendant kills a white victim, that they’re more likely to receive the death penalty, than if a black kills a black, which is disconcerting,” Brogan said after the task force’s meeting.
Among precedents cited in the Race and Ethnicity subcommittee recommendations is a 2005 Associated Press study that found that Ohio offenders who killed white victims were more likely to face a death sentence than those whose victims were black.
The committee approved three recommendations to:
• Require prosecutors, lawyers and judges involved in death-penalty cases to be trained to protect against racial bias.
• Allow lawyers to seek the removal of judges in cases where there is “a reasonable basis for concluding that the judge’s decision-making could be affected by racially discriminatory factors."
• Require defense attorneys to receive training in how best to proceed when they believe a potential juror is removed for possibly discriminatory reasons.
Another version of Welsh-Huggins' report is, "Ohio death penalty committee looks at racial bias," via the Marietta Times.
The committee rejected the creation of jury instructions involving race in death penalty cases that would also require jurors to report racial discrimination voiced by other jurors during deliberations.
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor convened the task force while making it clear it won't debate whether the state should have the death penalty.
The committee of prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and death penalty experts is looking at a variety of issues, from how the law affects minorities to the role of clemency.
The committee is also studying whether Ohio's death sentences are proportional, meaning that the nature of a crime committed by one condemned inmate is similar to the crimes committed by others.
O'Connor says the committee's goal is to produce a fair, impartial and balanced analysis of the state's 30-year-old law.
City Beat Cincinnati reports, "Racial Bias in Death Penalty Cases Gets Ohio Supreme Court's Attention." It's written by Hannah McCartney.
Ohio’s death penalty came under scrutiny again today, when the Ohio Supreme Court's Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty heard presentations from three different subcommittees on strategies to make sure the process in administering a death penalty sentence in Ohio is transparent and fair.
The task force heard presentations from the Law Enforcement Subcommittee, Race and Ethnicity Subcommittee and Clemency Subcommittee; the Clemency Subcommittee's recommendation was passed, while the Law Enforcement Subcommittee's recommendations were tabled for the next task force meeting, pending further review.
The Race and Ethnicity Subcommittee presented recommendations for dealing with evidence of longstanding racial bias in Ohio death penalty cases.
A 2005 Associated Press study concluded that offenders who killed white victims were significantly more likely to receive the death penalty than when victims were black, regardless of the race of the defendant. See the below chart, courtesy of the Associated Press, which charts the rate of death sentencing for defendants charged with killing white versus black victims during the course of the study, which was conducted from Oct. 1981-2002.
The Supreme Court’s Race and Ethnicity subcommittee made seven recommendations, three of which passed.
The Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio's Death Penalty website has additional information, including future meeting dates.