"Reform would limit death penalty to worst killers," is the AP report by Andrew Welsh-Huggins. It's via the Columbus Dispatch.
Factors that can lead to a death-penalty case such as murders committed during robberies, burglaries or rapes should be stripped from Ohio’s death-penalty law to focus on the worst of the worst killers, a task force studying changes to the law recommends.
The proposal would limit capital prosecutions to cases involving multiple victims, killings of children younger than 13, slayings of police officers and crimes committed to eliminate witnesses, and other very serious crimes, according to the proposal approved this month by the Ohio Supreme Court committee.
The recommendation was based on arguments that elements such as kidnapping and burglary rarely result in death sentences — and when they do, they often carry the greatest risk of racial disparity among defendants.
Numerous Ohio inmates would never have gone to Death Row in the past 30 years had such a rule been in place, including five of the past 10 inmates put to death.
The proposal would eliminate kidnapping, rape, aggravated arson, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary as factors that could lead to a death penalty. The result, supporters say, is a racially neutral law that targets the most-heinous criminals.
“By removing these, you not only get rid of cases that are clearly not in society’s eyes the worst of the worst, you also remove the greatest racial influence in the death penalty,” said State Public Defender Tim Young, chairman of the subcommittee that made the recommendations.
The proposal’s chances are uncertain at best. Lawmakers would have to approve such a sweeping change, and it likely would face stiff opposition from death-penalty supporters and local prosecutors.
Were the changes enacted, Ohio’s law would more closely resemble those of Kansas or New Hampshire, which don’t specify added factors such as robbery or burglary. Laws vary across the remaining 32 states with capital punishment, but both California — with the nation’s largest Death Row — and Texas — with the country’s busiest death chamber — have laws so broad that almost any killing could be prosecuted as a capital case.
The task force also recommended the creation of a panel overseen by the state attorney general that would have the final say on bringing death-penalty charges in Ohio. That recommendation would likely face strong opposition, too.
Earlier coverage of the Ohio Commission begins at the link. More information is at the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio's Death Penalty website.