Murder victim’s family among those testify against death penalty

by Marc Kovac | Capital Bureau Chief

Columbus — Twenty-seven years ago, Mary Jane Stout and her husband, Norman, allowed John David Stumpf and another man into their Guernsey County home to use the telephone.

Stumpf then shot and killed Mary Jane and attempted to kill her husband with repeated gunshots to the head.

That was in May 1984. Stumpf has been on Death Row since that year while his case works its way through the requisite state and federal appeals before an execution date is set.

On Dec. 14, the couple’s son asked state lawmakers to abolish Ohio’s death penalty, saying the lengthy legal process has brought nothing but pain and constant reminders of the crime rather than closure.

“We need certainty, we need healing,” Chris Stout told the House’s criminal justice committee. “We need to not be hauled into court again and again for 27 years and … traumatized over and over.

“I need this system to stop, period,” he added. “I need the death penalty to be over and I need people to listen to me when I say, do not do this to me or my family. Don’t kill John David Stumpf because of me. We’ve been through enough, and we want it to end. All this system does is create more victims….”

Stout was one of more than a dozen people providing testimony in favor of legislation that would end capital punishment in the state.

Speakers included former Death Row inmates who were innocent of the charges against them, attorneys who talked about the costs and inequity in administering the death penalty and family members of murder victims who said the system is not working.

“Thirty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court brought back the death penalty, reasoning that judges and juries could be provided with enough guidance to identify the offenders most deserving of capital punishment,” said Dale Johnston, who was wrongly convicted of the 1982 murder of his daughter and her boyfriend and spent seven years behind bars. “After three and a half decades of experimentation, it is time to admit the obvious: If the ultimate punishment cannot be applied fairly, it should not be applied at all.”

The Dec. 14 hearing included comments from Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer, one of the authors of the death penalty law on the books in Ohio, who now opposes capital punishment.

“Is Ohio well served by the death penalty at this point in time?” he asked. “… We tried to make sure that it would only be applied to the worst of the worst. I’m here today to testify and indicate to you I believe Ohio is no longer well served by our death penalty statute and it should be repealed.”

The Supreme Court justice also said data indicate capital punishment does not deter violent crimes.

“If you look at the data from states that don’t have it, you see roughly the same number of murders, aggravated murders,” he said. “So it’s impossible to make a case that the death penalty deters anyone.”

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Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief.

[emphasis added by OH PW]