COLUMBUS—State Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) and Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) provided joint-sponsor testimony today on Senate Bill 139 before the Senate Criminal Justice committee. Senator Williams issued the following statement calling for fairness and accountability in Ohio’s death penalty process.  

"We must ensure that progress is made in improving fairness and increase the confidence that the death penalty, when administered, is in fact being administered to the worst of the worst. With this legislation, the state would be better protected against the colossal error of executing an innocent person and better placed to reserve death sentences for the worst criminal offenders. 

“Those who are interested in finding common ground—whether they are supporters of the death penalty or opponents—owe it to Ohioans to embrace the thoroughly considered recommendations submitted by the Joint Task Force.

“Any steps to decrease the miscarriage of justice should be welcome, particularly by the innocent facing death at the hands of their own government.”

In 2011, the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, Maureen O'Connor, initiated a review of the state's death penalty to identify any systemic problems associated with the administration of the death penalty in Ohio. Chief Justice O’Connor called for a 20-person task force committee of judges, prosecuting attorneys, criminal defense lawyers, lawmakers, and academic experts, to conduct a study and submit a final report and recommendations to the Ohio State Bar Association and Ohio Supreme Court.  Four recommendations from the report make up the foundation of Senate Bill 139.

Senate Bill 139 modifies the grounds that may be the basis of a post-conviction relief proceeding, which is a type of collateral challenge of a criminal conviction or delinquent child adjudication. Currently, a person who has been convicted of a criminal offense who claims that there was such a denial or infringement of the person’s rights as to render the judgment void or voidable under the Ohio or U.S Constitution may file a petition in the court that imposed sentence asking the court to vacate or set aside the judgment or sentence or grant other appropriate relief. Under Senate Bill 139, a person who claims that there was a denial or infringement of the person’s rights under the Ohio or U.S Constitution that creates a reasonable probability of an altered verdict may file a petition requesting the post-conviction relief.

 

 
 
 
  
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