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In-Depth: 2 Ohio bills look to end state's death penalty

In-Depth: Two Ohio bills look to end state's death penalty
Posted at 10:18 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 23:18:02-04

CLEVELAND — The push to end Ohio's death penalty is gaining momentum and according to local state lawmakers, is gaining bipartisan support in Columbus.

Currently, there are 135 inmates on death row in Ohio, with the state executing 56 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1999.

Ohio state representative Juanita Brent, District 12 (D-Cleveland), told News 5 she's in favor of House Bill 183 and Senate Bill 103 and is calling for Ohio to stop the death penalty. Brent doesn't believe executions are slowing down crime and said both measures are gaining Republican support.

"It’s disproportionately affecting African American communities, this is not how we need to address and deal with justice," Brent said.

“Death penalties are not deterring people from crimes, if it was like that then we would have no one doing crimes.”

“People having access to affordable housing, making sure people have access to public transit, jobs that pay a living wage. That’s what deters crime, not the death penalty.”

The legislation and the effort to stop Ohio's death penalty were the subjects of an online news conference hosted by the Ohio Council of Churches and the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.

Ohio state representative Stephanie Howse is also in support of both bills,

“The district I represent falls within Cuyahoga County, which has the appalling reputation for the second most wrongful death sentences in the nation," Howse said.

"Of the six innocent men that were sent to death row from Cleveland, five of them were Black. We can no longer ignore that Black lives are consistently devalued by a justice system that should idealize fairness and accuracy. I am proud to stand with my colleagues today as we call for an end to capital punishment in Ohio."

Judy Martin of Cleveland, who is with Black on Black Crime Inc. is also in support of ending Ohio death penalty. Martin lost her 23-year-old son Christopher Lee Martin in a shooting in 1994 and explained why she urged the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor not to seek the death penalty for her son's killer

“One, the young man looked so much like my son at that time," Martin said. "Two, it wouldn’t bring back Christopher. Three, I learned he had a two-year-old son at that time and how could I be responsible for killing his father."

“I don’t know if I spent my time hating him, I would have died. I tried a couple times, it didn’t work, God didn’t take me so I’m still here.”

According to court records, Cuyahoga County has sentenced five people to death since 2017.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley said he would support putting the question of abolishing the death penalty before Ohio voters because that is who should decide.

Brent said both bills are in committee and should be heading to hearings next month, she hopes one of the measures will be up for a vote before the end of 2021.