Ohio has more execution dates set than any other state. And a new report from Harvard Law School shows most of those condemned inmates have serious mental and intellectual impairments. The report suggests that could pose a constitutional problem.
Of the 26 Ohio men set to be executed in the next three years, a review by Harvard Law’s Fair Punishment Project shows almost two-thirds suffered serious childhood trauma. Nearly a quarter are likely severely mentally ill and 42 percent have other impairments such as brain injuries.
And the project’s Jessica Brand says often, their lawyers didn’t investigate these issues to present them at trial.
“It’s just this horrible trifecta of things where you have people who are the most impaired received some poor representation at some time in their cases and then are facing the most severe penalty possible,” she said.
Brand says while findings in other states are similar, this could run afoul of the Eighth Amendment, which limits the death penalty to the most morally reprehensible people.
“When we’ve looked at death rows across the country, we’ve found similar patterns," Brand said. "But I think all that shows you is that the death penalty system in America is not operating as it’s supposed to be operating under the Eighth Amendment and in the standards set forward by the Supreme Court.”