Ohio doesn’t have an execution scheduled for nine months, and the state doesn’t have the drugs to carry out that lethal injections. So advocates are seizing the opportunity to lobby lawmakers on abandoning the death penalty entirely. And they came armed with some powerful weapons – people who were sentenced to die but who were freed after the charges against them were dismissed.
There have been nine men who were sentenced to die in Ohio who’ve been exonerated – together, those men spent more than 200 years on Ohio’s death row. Derrick Jamison of Cincinnati spent 20 years under a death sentence for a murder he didn’t commit. Since the charges against him were dismissed and he was released, he’s been telling his story to inspire those working for an end to capital punishment. And he admits it's "real hard. I lost 53 of my friends here in Ohio. I’m the 119th death row exoneree in the United States. I’m the only survivor from Cincinnati, Ohio. I lost a lot of my friends I grew up with in Cincinnati," Jamison said. "So it’s real hard coming out and speaking about it night after night. It gets to you, but it’s something you gotta do. It’s something I got to do.”
Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) has proposed a death penalty ban several times, but this time her bill is jointly sponsored with Rep. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg). She said with no executions likely in the near future, now is the time to consider recalling the death penalty. “We’ve not have been here exactly like this with two joint sponsors from both sides of the aisle," Antonio said. "So I really believe this is the time to have the hearings, to talk about this forward movement that we need to have especially in this time of a moratorium.”
Among those who addressed the activists before they set out to meet lawmakers was Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati). He told them he doesn’t want to ban the death penalty, but he’s proposed two laws that would make major changes. “I’m not sure I’m quite where you are, but I’m very, very dedicated to two propositions. First, that we should do everything humanly possible to ensure that an innocent person is not subjected to death at the hands of the state," Seitz said, and added that legislators must make sure those who were mentally ill at the time of their crimes are not executed.
Ohio’s next execution is set for January 2017. The state went to a single-drug execution method after a problematic execution in 2014, but the drug that that was approved for approved for use is unavailable, and though a law was passed to encourage compounding pharmacies to make it, none have. So unless the state finds a way to acquire the drug or changes the method of execution, there won’t be any executions anytime soon.