COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — House Republicans in Ohio are discussing a repeal of the death penalty, as executions remain on hold amid the state’s struggles to obtain lethal injection drugs.
GOP House Speaker Larry Householder told reporters Thursday that members of his majority caucus are discussing various options, including doing away with capital punishment.
“We don’t know that there is an option right now,” Householder said. “We may have a law in place that allows for a death penalty that we can’t carry out.”
Ohio becomes the latest state to consider ending capital punishment as executions continue to decline nationally. This year, New Hampshire became the 21st state to abolish the death penalty and California Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a formal moratorium on executions, becoming the fourth governor to do so.
Householder said one of lawmakers’ concerns is the expense of having a death penalty that can’t be carried out.
Current law in Ohio only allows for lethal injection as an execution method. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said in February that Ohio “certainly could have no executions” while a search for obtainable, allowable drugs was underway.
Householder said adding alternative methods is problematic.
“Well, I don’t think we want to come back to hanging, and I don’t think shootings would be good,” he said. “Electrocution is sort of off the table. I don’t know what the method would be. It seems like chemical injection is not working out very well for us, so I don’t know what else there is.”
Householder said discussion so far is internal. He and his leadership team are assessing support among Republicans for a repeal.
Such a proposal would immediately face some opposition in the Ohio Senate, also controlled by Republicans.
“I think that the majority of Ohioans support the option of the death penalty in certain cases,” Senate President Larry Obhof said in July.
Obhof’s spokesman, John Fortney, said Thursday: “We have not discussed abolishing the death penalty.”
In 2004, during Householder’s first stint as speaker, the House sent a bill to the Senate that would have ordered the state to study the fairness of Ohio’s death penalty system. The legislation went nowhere.
University of Dayton law professor Thaddeus Hoffmeister said the trend away from the death penalty is driven by improvements in DNA science, a growing recognition of uneven enforcement and the high costs of prosecuting death-penalty cases, which can hit small counties especially hard.
“Some states (repeal their laws) for moral reasons,” he said. “Others do it for strictly financial reasons.”
The decision to repeal Ohio’s law is in Republicans’ hands, Hoffmeister said: “They control all three branches of government in the state of Ohio. If they want to get it done, it’ll get done.”