Lawyers: Juries should impose death sentences

Associated Press


Ohio’s capital-punishment law is unconstitutional because judges, not juries, impose death sentences in contrast to the 6th Amendment right to a jury trial, lawyers for a convicted killer argued before the state Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Attorneys for ex-death row inmate Maurice Mason said a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring Florida’s death penalty law unconstitutional based on the same jury principle should apply in Ohio.

In that ruling, the court said the 6th Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to determine each fact needed to sentence someone to death, Kort Gatterdam, a Columbus attorney representing Mason, told the court.

“A jury’s mere recommendation is not enough,” Gatterdam said.

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, judges must conduct their own analyses of the pros and cons of sentencing someone to death, not just accept a jury’s recommendation, Gatterdam said in a court filing last year.

In Ohio, if juries recommend capital punishment, judges impose the sentence.

Ohio judges can reject death sentences but can’t impose them if juries don’t recommend them.

In defending the law, a prosecutor argued that lawmakers struck the proper balance in the state’s death penalty law with the roles of Ohio judges and juries clearly defined.

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