Thursday, June 11, 2009

And the Beat Goes On

The June statistics from from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction give this information about death row:
Total Death Row Inmates 173
Male = 172 Female = 1
White 75
Black 90
Hispanic 4
Other 4
Executions 29 Since February 1999
Because of the way they count, not all of those people are currently under sentence of death though all were, and most of those who are not at the moment might be again. It works like this. A person who is sentenced to die will be treated as being on death row until released, resentenced, or dead.

The numbers, of course, tell their own story. The entire prison system has a capacity of 38,665. It currently houses 50,919 which means it's got about a third more inmates than it's designed to hold. Last year, the system admitted about twice as many prisoners as it released, so overcrowding is increasing, not decreasing. Death row has essentially nothing to do with this, housing just 0.3% of the system's population.

And, of course, though DRC's report doesn't show it, death row's population is actually shrinking. (More statistics available here and through various links here.) There are the folks leaving because they were resentenced to something less than death, because their death sentences were commuted or they were granted clemency. There are the folks who die of natural causes. And, of course, there are those we kill. All that adds up to noticeably more than we're actually sentencing to die. Again, it means that unlike the rest of the prison population, death row is actually shrinking.

Soon, it seems, it will be shrinking faster. There are, right now, six men in Ohio with very serious execution dates for this year:
  • John Fautenberry - July 14
  • Marvallous Keene - July 21
  • Jason Getsy - August 18
  • Rommell Broom - September 15
  • Darryl Durr - November10
  • Kenneth Biros - December 8
One or more will probably be stayed, but there are several pending motions to set dates, too, so there could be some men added. And today the Ohio Supreme Court refused to delay Keene's execution even though the Ohio Public Defender, which represents him, doesn't have the resources properly to prepare for his clemency hearing. The court's entry gives no explanation, but it offers a pretty ugly hint of what's to come.
1996-2455. State v. Keene.
Montgomery App. No. 14375. By entry filed May 6, 2009, this court ordered that appellant's sentence be carried into execution on Tuesday, July 21, 2009. Upon consideration of appellant's motion to continue his scheduled execution date,

It is ordered by the court that the motion is denied. In general, future execution dates will be scheduled in order that at least three weeks will lapsebetween scheduled executions.
I did the math. Three weeks between executions, if they stick to that, means that there will be no more than seventeen executions a year. SEVENTEEN!!!

For some time, now, Ohio has had the distinction of having killed in this modern era of executions more people than any other state outside the south (chart here). But seventeen? In a single year?

Only Texas does that. Or so we thought.

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