Friday, April 11, 2014

Ohio Death Penalty Task Force Report Update

  Not all of the 22-member Ohio Supreme Court death penalty assessment task force were in agreement when they wrapped up their review of the state’s death penalty “administrative and procedural mechanisms” yesterday, Cleveland’s Plain Dealer reports this morning, with prosecutors on the task force saying  recommendations the panel considered would effectively curtail use of capital punishment in Ohio., especially that of creating a panel under the Ohio attorney general that would have to approve death penalty charges before cases proceed.
  A second Plain Dealer article revealed “the recommendation for a review panel had been closely debated with a subcommittee giving it  its backing last June by a vote of 8-6. Ohio Public Defender Timothy Young, though,  who co-chaired the subcommittee, said then that he wouldn’t be surprised if prosecutors opposed to the recommendation wrote a dissenting report” – a dissent now expected to be filed sometime next week.

  Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, the one article continues, was quoted as saying that “the goal of the Joint Task Force was not that of abolishing the death penalty, but the recommendations it was considering could effectively make capital cases so difficult that prosecutors won’t pursue them,” That recommendation, O’Brien said, would seem to clash with the discretion county prosecutors have to decide what charges to file and what cases to pursue.

  O’Brien is part of that group that intends to present a dissent to the recommendations, perhaps by next week, according to the Plain Dealer. Others are representatives for Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty and Hamilton County’s Joseph Deters.

  The task force, created in 2011, met much of Thursday to review 56 recommendations in the draft report. Dissents are due to the panel by April 22. The final report, including dissents, is to be ready by mid May.

  Coincidentally, the American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Due Process Review Project released its report of key findings of ABA State Death Penalty Assessments (2006-2013) at its National Symposium on the Modern Death Penalty last November, also announcing its beginning of its second round of assessments. The Project’s 2007  report titled “Evaluating Fairness and Accuracy in State Death Penalty Systems: The Ohio Death Penalty Assessment Report”  was the catalyst behind the Task Force’s creation in 2011.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ohio Death Penalty Review Task Force Report

 The Columbus Dispatch this morning is reporting that “sweeping changes in how Ohio handles capital punishment, including banning executions of the mentally ill, requiring DNA evidence or a videotaped confessions and reserving the death penalty for the 'worst of the worst' crimes, are among a long list of recommendations by the Ohio Supreme Court Death Penalty Task Force scheduled to be finalized later today.”

 Other recommendations include creating a statewide “capital litigation fund” to pay for death penalty cases and eliminating death penalty eligibility for some crimes, such as kidnapping, rape, and aggravated arson, robbery & burglary, all of which can be considered capital crimes under the current law.
 While not following through on a recommendation to establish a special committee to deal with geographic disparities among Ohio’s counties, the Dispatch’s article noted the issue as being “particularly obvious in Hamilton County which has sent a disproportionate number of killers to death row,” and the Task Force’s proposing a similar review committee on racial-disparity issues being set up by the attorney general.

   The task force was convened two years ago by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and the Ohio State Bar Association to review the manner in which the state prosecutes & administers its death penalty, though specifically being instructed “not to review whether Ohio should or shouldn't have the death penalty.”

   Some of the proposed changes in the 71-page document would have to be approved by the General Assembly, the Dispatch’s article says, and signed into law by the governor, while others are going to require changing administrative rules & procedures having to have accrediting agencies sign off on them.  

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Ohio Supreme Court’s resolving of traffic camera issue

  Parts of a controversy that’s actually nation-wide may soon be resolved at least in this state when the Ohio Supreme Court hears arguments over the legality of traffic cameras Friday.

  A Cleveland Plain Dealer article yesterday related that “while the case specifically involves the city of Toledo, the court's ruling will affect drivers across Ohio and every community that uses cameras as traffic cops  --- Toledo appealing a ruling in the Sixth District Ohio Court of Appeals that said the method that city used for processing the tickets deprived motorists of due process and equal protection under the Ohio and U.S. constitutions. (Docket for Walker v. City of  Toledo )
 A Columbus Dispatch article back in January reported “appeals courts in Toledo and Cleveland had ruled that city ordinances making red-light and speed-camera violations in-house administrative matters illegally deprive municipal courts of jurisdiction to handle moving traffic violations.

 Cleveland’s case, meanwhile, is a certified conflict between. Jodka v. City of Cleveland, 8th Dist. No. 99951  and Walker v. City of  Toledo, 6th Dist., No. L-12-1056.  
 In the case of Pruiett et al. v. Village of Elmwood Place et al., here in Hamilton County, following the First District’s subsequently dismissed both its appeal and a motion for reconsideration this past May, the Supreme Court similarly unceremoniously denied jurisdiction last October.

  An NBCNews article back about the same time as the Dispatch’s heralded "Lights, cameras, reaction: Resistance builds against red-light cameras," noting, "A rarity 15 years ago, red light cameras have become ubiquitous in many U.S. cities. Communities in 24 states and Washington, D.C., now use the cameras to try to decrease illegal -- and sometimes deadly -- traffic violations. Supporters say it's worked…… Critics of red light programs worry about the Big Brother aspect of using cameras instead of cops, and many are saying the cameras, systems & procedures behind them -- generally run by private companies -- have spread not because they make streets safer, but because they mean profit for cities and companies.

  Cincinnatians, by the way Mr. Twain, were the first voters in the country to decide whether their municipality should be able to use cameras to catch drivers running red lights -- favoring a ban on such cameras  six years ago.
[ See Charter Art. XIV, City of Cincinnati ]