OH prosecutorial hopefuls debate

Joe Deters and Fanon Rucker discussed the death penalty, bail and protests

written BY: NINA BENICH, staff writer
Photo courtesy of @jimmywayne via creativecommons.org
Incumbent Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters disagreed with challenger Fanon Rucker on a variety of issues during their first debate on Oct. 1. Deters advocated for the death penalty and peaceful protests, while Rucker advocated for the elimination of cash bail and a full-time prosecutor job.

The Hamilton County Prosecutorial Debate between Democrat Fanon Rucker and current Republican Prosecutor Joe Deters was held on Oct. 1. 

Each candidate was allowed one minute to speak and 30 seconds for follow-up questions. Topics included possible ways to reduce Cincinnati crime rates, protest, racial injustice and the death penalty. 

One of the main differences between the two candidates is their approach to crime and incarceration in Cincinnati. Rucker believes in bail reform, as well as the establishment of a conviction integrity unit and a reentry court. 

When asked about plans to reduce violent crime, Rucker brought up the strides that New Jersey took to address this issue.

“By changing the assessment tool, and by eliminating cash bail for nonviolent offenses, they not only reduce(d) their jail population, but they lowered their murder rate by 40%, and they lowered their violent crime rate by 33%,” Rucker stated. 

“That is one of the things I’m going to do to reduce violent crime in Hamilton County,” Rucker announced. 

Deters is a self-proclaimed “tough-on-crime” prosecutor and plans to continue enforcing this stance while enhancing the law enforcement recruitment process. 

“The reality is 15% of criminals in this country commit 85% of the crime. The key for law enforcement is to identify what 15% we’re dealing with and seek the longest possible sentences to get them off the streets,” Deters said. 

When asked about the recent countrywide protests in response to racially unjust crimes, Rucker stated his belief that “justice demands consistency,” and that while violent crime should be prosecuted, wrongful charges must also be eliminated. 

Deters expressed that he defends peaceful protest, but draws the line when it becomes violent. 

When discussing racial injustice, the two candidates agreed in saying that solutions are needed to fix the system’s bias.

The death penalty was also a subject of disagreement between the candidates. The two were asked about their stances on a recent Cincinnati murder case. 

“The issue is not about the fact that we need to punish individuals who threaten, harm, and torture members of our community. The issue is the injustice in the process of how we manipulate our criminal justice system to ensure that it’s fair,” Rucker, who opposes the death penalty, said. 

Deters stated that although he may not necessarily want to enforce the death penalty, the “overarching problem” is that he must enforce the law as current prosecutor. 

He addressed this once more in response to Rucker’s counterargument that Hamilton County accounts for 2% of the majority of death penalty cases across the country. 

“If you fit our death penalty statute and we don’t have a proof issue, we will seek the death penalty,” Deters commented. 

The candidates were also asked about Rucker’s aspiration to make the prosecutorial position a full-time job, rather than part-time. If this change is implemented, the elected candidate will prosecute all crimes committed by both adults and juveniles, while taking on private cases for extra pay.