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Safeguards needed before any debate of death penalty

Next year, Ohio may join the 21 other states that have written the death penalty out of their criminal codes. It would be understandable if Buckeye State legislators make the move.

Putting someone to death legally has become more and more difficult. Ohio permits only lethal injection as capital punishment, and obtaining the chemicals used in the process is becoming more and more difficult.

There is another reason in many minds to abolish capital punishment. It is the possibility, no matter how small, of putting to death an innocent man or woman. DNA testing has revealed many people convicted of serious crimes did not commit them.

Though there is some sentiment in the Statehouse for abolishing the death penalty, many Ohioans do not agree. “I think that the majority of Ohioans support the option of the death penalty in certain cases,” state Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, commented in July.

We suspect one reason some Ohioans agree with the death penalty is that it eliminates a threat to society with finality. They have heard too many stories of people sent to prison for heinous crimes who, upon being released or escaping from custody, commit more violent offenses.

Any talk of eliminating capital punishment in the Buckeye State would have to be accompanied by an ironclad method of ensuring that the most violent of criminals are put behind bars with no possibility — none at all — of ever emerging. Proponents of abolishing the death penalty should begin writing their legislation at that point. Doing otherwise would be pointless.

Those in public office tend to avoid controversial issues during election years, and 2020 is one of those. It is possible, then, that the death penalty will not be debated in Columbus until 2021 or later.

Rest assured, the topic will come up again, however. When it does, many Buckeye State residents will refuse to talk about it unless they are presented with a failsafe plan to eliminate threats posed by those who now are sent to death row.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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