Death Penalty

The Death Lottery


On April 2, 2014, Ohioans to Stop Executions (OTSE) released a new report entitled The Death Lottery:” How Race and Geography Determine Who Goes to Ohio’s Death Row. The report was released a day after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued the state’s 2013 Capital Crimes Report.

The term “death lottery” is borrowed language from Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeiffer, who has turned against the system of capital punishment he helped design.

Ohio’s capital crimes report presents a wealth of hard data, but The Death Lottery digs deeper, analyzing that data to show how the race of the victim and the location of the crime have the most impact on who goes to death row in Ohio.

Here are a few highlights from the report:

  • Overall, the death penalty is declining in popularity. In 2013, Ohio prosecutors filed the fewest number of capital indictments since the death penalty was reinstated in 1981.
  • Ohioans convicted of killing a white victim are much more likely to be sentenced to death than those convicted of the same crime against a victim of color, even though people of color represent two thirds of all murder victims.
  • 40 percent of Ohio death sentences originate from Cuyahoga County.
  • Six men have been sentenced to death in Ohio only to be exonerated and released from prison years later.
  • Ohio has proven unable to administer the death penalty without error. The state recently changed its execution protocol for the sixth time in four years and continues to have difficulty adhering to written procedures and obtaining drugs to execute prisoners. This is a problem with no easy solution, and it has led to four botched executions since 2006.

The Death Lottery shows once again that capital punishment is an arbitrary and fundamentally flawed system of justice. It is time to heed the words of Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill and “end this outdated form of punishment.”