New Report: Ohio's Death Penalty Unfair Toward Minorities
Report highlights racial disparities in Ohio's death penalty

COLUMBUS– Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D – Columbus) announced her support of a recently released report analyzing the application of Ohio’s death penalty. The report, conducted by University of North Carolina professor Dr. Frank R. Baumgartner, found that the race of the victim is strongly correlated with whether or not an individual receives the death penalty. If a homicide victim is white, there is a greater chance that the death penalty will be sought than if the victim is black. The disparity is even greater when factoring in gender; homicides involving white female victims are six times more likely to result in an execution than homicides involving black male victims.

“This report reinforces what we have known for years; the death penalty is unfair to racial and ethnic minorities,” said Senator Tavares. “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. 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.”

Senator Tavares is the sponsor of Senate Bill 67, the Racial Justice Act, which would allow those convicted of a capital crime to appeal their sentence if they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that race played a factor in their sentencing. They would then have to serve life without the possibility of parole.

Senator Tavares has introduced the Racial Justice Act in previous General Assemblies. In 2014, the adoption of a racial justice act was one 56 recommendations to come out of the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty. The task force was convened by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. 

“In 1999, the Ohio Commission on Racial Fairness told us that, from arrest to execution, we were failing to treat racial and ethnic minorities fairly in the justice system,” stated Senator Tavares. “In 2007, the American Bar Association found Ohio to be out of compliance with their standards for an accurate death penalty, in part due to racial bias. In 2014, the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty recommended the adoption of a racial justice act, and Dr. Baumgartner’s report shows there is still disparate treatment of minorities when it comes to the death penalty. This problem has been around for decades. We need the state of Ohio to address this issue to ensure our justice system is fair and free from bias.”

A copy of the report is attached below:


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