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Ohio's death penalty subject to review
By Laura A. Bischoff, The Dayton Daily News
Jan. 15, 2007

COLUMBUS — Is the death penalty moral?

Ted Strickland, Ohio's new governor, admits he has trouble answering that question.

"My argument is society has a right to make this decision and at least at this point it seems that Ohioans embrace that desire and belief," said Strickland, a former prison psychologist who at times counseled death row inmates. But, he added: "I have some concerns about its effect on society as a whole. I have some concerns about its effect on those who are actually charged with carrying out the execution. This is not a simple matter."

Strickland admits he grappled with the death penalty issue before deciding to run for governor, saying he had to "come to terms" with whether he would be willing to carry out the law. "It was not an easy decision to reach," he said.

With three executions scheduled in the next six weeks, Strickland's stance on the death penalty could, at the very least, determine the pace of executions in Ohio. The governor has the power to delay any execution, and Strickland says he may need more time to review the lengthy files of upcoming cases.

Ohio's death penalty may be under more scrutiny. Newly elected Attorney General Marc Dann, like Strickland a Democrat, is advocating a study of the death penalty and how it is applied in Ohio. "There is a pretty wide disparity with how the death penalty is administered in the state and I think we need to take a look at whether we're doing it the best possible way or whether there are better ways. Or whether we should do it at all," Dann said.

Meanwhile, a handful of Ohio death row inmates filed suit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection, Ohio's method of execution. They include Kenneth Biros, who was scheduled to die Jan. 23 but received a federal stay of execution.

Strickland admits that there could be innocent prisoners on Ohio's death row.

"That's why I think it's incumbent upon me or any other governor to exercise extreme care in this matter," Strickland said. "As you know, there have been documented cases, I think at this point even scores, certainly numerous people released after extended periods of stay on death row as a result of new information, primarily related to DNA testing. No system is totally perfect in its application."

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