New Conservative Group Comes Out Against Ohio's Death Penalty

Feb 18, 2020

A new group called Ohio Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty is releasing a list of prominent legislators, politicians and citizens who are calling for an end to the practice. Former Gov. Bob Taft and former Rep. Pat Tiberi have both signed onto the list.

State Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) says their opposition falls among three main lines. Cost is a big one: Some analysts say it's more expensive to put someone on death row than to sentence them to life in prison.

Another, Lanese says, is justice.

"In Ohio, you're more likely to get the death penalty in certain counties than in others," she says. "And that just doesn't seem as fair as it should be. Also beyond geography, gender race, other issues come into play. Inequality is important to conservatives."

She says a libertarian stance on government paired with a religious viewpoint makes a compelling case for many on the right.

"We're very skeptical of big government, we don't trust it with a lot of different things," she says. "Why are we trusting it with the biggest decision in a person's life, whether they have the right to life?"

Ohio hasn't carried out an execution since July 2018. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has repeatedly moved back dates for upcoming executions, citing problems obtaining the drugs used for lethal injections, which is the only method allowed under Ohio law.

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder has suggested the death penalty may no longer be fiscally responsible or practicable. So far, though, he hasn’t proposed any concrete steps toward ending or replacing it.

Lanese says the group is in the early stages of trying to garner support, but she recognizes the work that's been done across the aisle.

"We've done a lot of bipartisan things in this General Assembly and I think this will be another those movements that will take both sides of the aisle," she says.

The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association is in favor of keeping the status quo. A representative for the organization says eliminating capital punishment could lead to the state getting rid of life without parole as well.

Lanese doesn't buy into that line of argument.

"We're still going to have law and order. Life in prison is no picnic," she says. "And the slippery slope comes up in virtually every argument and sometimes it plays out, but most times it doesn't. It's an easy argument to make without many facts behind it."