Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost: Capital punishment system is ‘costly and ineffective’

WARREN — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost called on state lawmakers to address what he calls a “costly and ineffective capital-punishment system” amid the release of the 2023 Capital Crimes Report on Monday.

“No criminal penalty — capital or otherwise — should carry an empty promise of justice,” Yost states in a news release. “Ohioans on both sides of the death-penalty debate can agree that our current system of capital punishment is unworkable, and something needs to change.”

Ohio death row inmates spend more than 21 years awaiting an execution date. Contributing to that wait time are appeals and hesitance from pharmaceutical supply companies that provide the drugs used in lethal injections.

Of the 119 inmates on death row in Ohio, 11 are from Trumbull and Mahoning counties.

The seven from Trumbull County are: Danny Lee Hill, Stanley Adams, Sean Carter, Nathaniel Jackson, Donna Roberts, David Martin and Andrew Williams. Four — Scott Group, Lance Hundley, Willie Gene Wilks Jr. and John Drummond — are from Mahoning County. Roberts is the only female on death row in Ohio.

In January, Yost alongside state Rep. Brian Stewart, state Rep. Phil Plummer and Lou Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, introduced legislation to allow nitrogen hypoxia to be used for the death penalty, in hopes to reignite what the news release called a “stalled” capital punishment system.

The report provides a summary of Trumbull County death row inmate Stanley “Ted” Adams convicted for the 1999 murder of Esther Cook and the murder and rape of her 12-year-old daughter, Ashley Cook, in the victims’ Warren home.

Adams was sentenced to death in 2001 in the courtroom of former Common Pleas Judge Peter Kontos — the conviction and death sentence was upheld three years later after Adams attempted to appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court.

Adams’ execution date is scheduled for Feb. 19, 2025, but has been rescheduled twice. Frustrations from the victims’ relatives were highlighted in the report.

“We have a judicial system, laws and the death penalty for a reason,” Kellie Brooks, one of Ashley Cook’s sisters, stated in the report. “Ted has been found guilty. They have the proof; they had the blood; they had semen. DNA doesn’t lie. He exhausted all of his appeals years ago.”

Ashley’s other sister, Kimberly Cook, also voiced her frustration in the report, “I’m always going to feel the grief of not being able to grow up with my mother. And my kids don’t have a grandma. I’m always going to feel hurt and there’s always going to be an empty spot in my heart. But at least I know if I can’t have her, I should have justice for what has been done.”

Sentenced in Feb. of 1986 to be put to death for the murder of 12-year-old Raymond Fife, Danny Lee Hill, is another example of the lengthy delays of executions Yost says has made the system costly and ineffective. The appeal process has been drawn out since 1989 when the first review of the trial was conducted by an appellate court.

Yost joined in with Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins to overturn a recent Eleventh District Court of Appeals decision that would allow Hill another hearing on his long-standing intellectual disability claim.

An execution date for Hill is set for July 22, 2026.


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