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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Study finds racial, gender bias in Ohio executions

Ohio's 53 executions shown "vast inequities" in racial, gender and geography, a new study concludes.

Research by Frank Baumgartner, a University of North Carolina political science professor, are not a revelation to those familiar with Ohio's death penalty, which resumed in 1999 after a 36-year hiatus. But it does underline a consistent pattern that has been pointed out in state, national and media reports for years.

Baumgartner looked at Ohio's 53 executions between 1999 and 2014, finding "significant and troubling racial, gender, and geographic disparities with regards to who is executed in Ohio." Baumgartner concluded that the victim's race and gender, and the county where the murder occurred, influenced whether or not the killer was executed.

"The most concerning finding is that these racial and geographic disparities are quite significant, and they demonstrate that Ohio's death penalty is plagued by vast inequities which will undermine public confidence in the state's ability to carry out the death penalty in a fair and impartial manner," Baumgartner concluded.

Sharon L. Davies, the executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, said in response that the "race or gender of a victim, and the county of the crime, should not influence who is sentenced to die ... Ohio citizens and lawmakers should review the findings of this important research."

The study found in 65 % of all executions the murder victim was white. However, overall only 43 % of all victims are white. In addition, murderers of white females are 6 times more likely to be executed than those who kill black males.

Just 4 counties, Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Lucas and Summit, are responsible 1/2 of all executions. There are 69 of 88 counties where no one has been executed.

Hamilton County's execution rate is almost 9 times that of Franklin County.

Ohio Sen. Charleta Tavares, a Columbus Democrat, issued a statement condemning Ohio's death death penalty system.

"When you don't prosecute the death of black males as you do white females, you are essentially telling black males they are not worth as much, and that their lives do not matter," she said. "It is reminiscent of the darkest eras in American history, when the death of a white woman was seen as the ultimate crime that must be punished to the fullest extent of the law, but the death of a black male was not a cause for concern."

Source: Columbus Dispatch, Feb 1, 2016

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