Columbus, OH –March 14, 2011
State Representatives Ted Celeste and Nickie Antonio announced legislation that would abolish the death penalty.
OTSE Executive Director, Kevin Werner said, “This is a day of enormous opportunity. Today begins a thoughtful discussion around how to build a fairer, more equitable, and more efficient justice system.” Werner, who spoke at the press conference announcing the bill, also said, “Eliminating the death penalty would allow us to better serve victims’ family members, will guarantee that we will never execute an innocent person, and will free up precious resources to better support law enforcement officials in their efforts to keep our communities safe.””
Ohio death row exonerees Dale Johnston and Derrick Jamison were also on hand and spoke at the press conference. Johnston was sentenced to death for the 1982 murders of his daugher and her fiance. Dale spent 7 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. He was freed from prison in 1990. Decades after the crime, the man responsible for the murders confessed and is serving a life sentence.
Derrick Jamison walked out of the Hamilton County Justice Center exactly 20 years after he was sentenced to death in 1985. Investigators withheld evidence, including eyewitness statements, from Jamison and his attorneys. The evidence indicated someone else committed the crime for which Derrick was convicted. The murder has never been solved.
At the press conference Derrick said, “I am proud to have spoken around the country and overseas about the death penalty, but really I need for my home state of Ohio, which condemned me to death, to hear me.”
Melinda Dawson, whose mother Judy Johnson, was murdered in 1998, also spoke to the media. Melinda’s then-husband, Clarence Elkins, was convicted of the murder. The following eight years of her life, Melinda spent working to prove Clarence’s innocence and find the real killer. Clarence was exonerated in 2005 as a result of Melinda’s work and due to the support of the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati’s Rosenthal Institute of Justice.
OTSE Board member Jim Tobin also spoke on behalf of the Ohio Catholic Confernece. The Ohio bishops renewed their call for abolition following a series of high profile individuals advocating for an end to the death penalty including Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfiefer and retired Ohio prisons director Terry Collins.