The task force being convened by the Ohio Supreme Court to review the administration of Ohio's death penalty procedures received its charge from Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor yesterday morning. (Court's Announcement)
Chief Justice O'Connor reiterated during her opening remarks that "It should be made perfectly clear from the outset that this task force is not being asked to make a judgment on whether Ohio should or should not have the death penalty….. What you are being asked to do is provide to the Court and the state bar guidance on the current laws on the subject, the practices in other jurisdictions, the data, the costs, and many other aspects associated with the death penalty."
A cooperative effort between the Supreme Court and the Ohio State Bar Association, the Joint Task Force is chaired by retired Second District Court of Appeals Judge James A. Brogan and is made up of another 21 judges, prosecuting and defense attorneys, lawmakers, and law professors. (See Court's earlier announcement)
Judge Brogan in his remarks raised several initial questions for the group to whet their considerations, including whether the standard of proof in death penalty should be "beyond all doubt" instead of "beyond a reasonable doubt" as in other criminal cases.
Other discussions centered around prosecutorial discretion in seeking the death penalty and the extent to which the economics of a given county impacted how prosecutors made their decision, and whether discovery in death penalty cases should be made different than in ordinary criminal cases.
Additionally, Judge Brogan asked whether death penalty cases deemed disproportional to other cases that did not include the death penalty, should be set aside on appeal.
An Associate Press article yesterday also noted some of Ohio’s laws governing when and how the death penalty can be imposed, including alternate sentences and appeals issues, goes back to 1981.