Faith leaders are urging lawmakers to consider two bills to repeal the death penalty in Ohio, a state that used to be a leader in capital punishment but has now gone more than three years without an execution under Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH).
DeWine has said the state can’t get the lethal injection drugs it needs, so the legislature needs to decide what to do.
That’s given advocates against capital punishment renewed hope that they could get a repeal passed and signed.
Brandi Slaughter is the Policy Director at the Ohio Council of Churches and the Deputy Director at Death Penalty Action, and has been meeting with lawmakers.
“Many of them are in support of abolishing the death penalty, but they have shared that it’s going to be a heavy lift because in a lot of ways there are competing priorities, people are concerned about primaries," Slaughter said on a conference call with faith leaders and reporters.
But while there haven't been any executions since DeWine took office, and he doesn't appear to be ready to green-light any in the near future, Slaughter said faith leaders are still pushing for a change in the law.
“I don’t see an appetite under this administration to seek out other alternatives. But that being said, just as we’ve seen at the federal level, administrations change. We want to end this legislatively," Slaughter said.
The House bill to abolish the death penalty has bipartisan joint sponsors and 23 co-sponsors, including five Republicans. The Senate bill is also bipartisan and has nine cosponsors - three of them Republicans and all but one Democrat.
29 men are on Ohio's execution schedule through 2025. The first one scheduled, for Columbus killer Warren Keith Henness, is in January 2022. Nine executions are set for 2022, and there's one scheduled for each month of 2023.
A national Gallup poll last year showed support for the death penalty continues to slip, down from a high of 80% in favor of it in 1994. 55% said they support capital punishment for a person convicted of murder, with 43% opposed.