OH bill seeks to end death penalty

Reps. propose bill against capital punishment in unusually bipartisan effort

By Olivia Valkner, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of flickr.com
A bipartisan coalition of Ohio legislators is presenting a bill to abolish the death penalty within the state. While Democrats have cited human rights as a reason for abolition, Republicans are introducing financial concerns.

Ohio State Reps. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) and Adam Miller (D-Colombus) introduced a bill on Feb. 15 that has the potential to abolish the death penalty in the state. The topic has been under scrutiny for years, and many state legislators are considering this bill the most bipartisan effort in Ohio state history. 

Members of the Ohio Senate have also come out in support of the bill, including a bipartisan coalition led by Sen. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood.)

The last instance of capital punishment in Ohio was the execution of Cincinnatian Robert van Hook in July 2018.

Since then, Ohio has struggled to get safe concoctions of the injection. 

In 2019, Governor Mike DeWine postponed all instances of death penalty by legal injection due to the steady decline in lethal injection supply. This reflects a federal trend toward the diminished use of capital punishment, or irradication of it completely.  

Schmidt, however, is playing various angles when it comes to persuading her colleagues across the aisle. 

Schmidt argues that the death penalty spends more taxpayer dollars, due to the numerous appeals that come from those on death row. She cited that the average person spends almost 20 years awaiting their dose of the injection.  

Republicans in support of the bill argue that housing offenders in prison is ultimately more cost-effective than funding their appeals. This contention has helped spark bipartisan support in the Ohio State House of Representatives.

Capital punishment is a hot-button issue across states and universities alike, and the Xavier community is no exception. In the past few years, Ohio has demonstrated plentiful civilian support for prison, police and death penalty reform.  

Libby Overfield, a senior Philosophy, Politics and the Public and history double major, spoke about the topic and her personal experience studying death penalty reform  in a first-year seminar at Xavier. 

Overfield believes that capital punishment “doesn’t provide closure (or) prevent people from committing those crimes,” and is ultimately a waste of taxpayer dollars.  She also hopes that money saved from keeping people off of death row can be funneled into community action and crime prevention measures. 

Strong bipartisan support  like this excites Overfield, because she believes the issue of the death penalty is a “human” issue. While Rep. Schmidt’s and many Republicans’ support stems from the idea of saving money for the average American, Overfield believes the movement to eradicate is headed in the right direction. 

“It is ultimately important for us to remember their humanity.” Overfield said. “Judging people by their worst action is a very dangerous rabbit hole to go down, because I think you will find, in the end, very few of us are without fault… Who does the death penalty actually help? Who are we to decide who doesn’t get to live anymore?” 

Overfield sees a link between death penalty abolition and prison reform as well.  

“Nobody comes out of prison saying, ‘Wow, I’m such a better person now,’” she remarked. 

Overfield recommends that those who are interested in exploring the death penalty should watch Netflix’s docu-series I Am a Killer. This series presents first-person interviews and nonfiction narratives of people on death row.  

“(The show) is fascinating and so well done,” Overfield raved. “In these situations, I often think about my own privilege and the situations that I have been in.”   

For those who feel more called to action, Overfield recommends writing your local lawmakers about the new death penalty legislation and researching their stances on Rep. Schmidt’s proposed bill.