It's been over five months since we killed anyone in Ohio. That was Danny Bedford back in May. He followed Frank Spisak, Johnnie Baston, and Clarence Carter to the death house this year. But since then, nobody. We've had stays and reprieves. Kasich granted clemency twice. Two men died of natural causes.
Reginald Brooks is scheduled for November 15. On Friday, a judge in Cleveland ruled that he's mentally ill but not so crazy that Ohio can't murder him. The Parole Board hasn't yet spoken. Until they do, the Governor can't decide on clemency. And we can expect more court rulings. And perhaps another reprieve, though perhaps not.
Brooks is the last scheduled for 2011. Next up would be Charles Lorraine on January 18, 2012. He's one of seven scheduled for next year, along with Michael Webb (Feb. 22), Mark Wiles (April 18), Abdul Awkal (June 6), Jeff Eley (July 26), Don Palmer (Sept. 20), and Brett Hartman (Nov. 13).
And that's not all, as Ron Popeil would say if he shilled for executions, there's more. Because Fred Treesh (March 6), Steven Smith (May 1), and Billy Slagle (August 7) are already scheduled for 2013.
This morning the Columbus 7 added Ronald Post (January 18) and Harry Mitts (September 25) to the 2013 list.
Texas has killed 11 this year. Alabama 6. Ohio's tied with Arizona and Georgia for third place with 4.
On Halloween, appropriately enough, they'll be starting a capital trial in Butler County. The state hopes to murder Hector Alvarenga Retana. The judge, Michael Sage, doesn't know how much the effort will cost, but he told Denise Callahan of the Middletown Journal it will be a lot.
“It is so great we can’t afford to pay for that directly out of our ongoing budget,” he said. “All the costs associated with that we take directly to the commissioners. If you include the direct costs and indirect costs I think it would be somewhere around $250,000 per case.”
That $250,000 is very low. But then, it is Butler County. Right now there are seven men on death row from Butler County. Most of those charged in capital cases, most of the ones the county spends all that money on, they end up with life sentences anyway.
But if they have to go to the County Commissioners for special funding even to try and kill them, that means that the County Commissioners could stop it, could channel Nancy Reagan and just say no.
We can't afford this foolishness. All that money and for what? So that maybe a jury will say he should die and then he can sit on death row for a while and maybe someday be executed. Or he'll die in prison anyway, and we can do that for a whole lot less. And with no chance that we'll have screwed up and killed someone who didn't deserve it. Forget whether it's better for him. It's better for us.
Well, sure. They could say that. But of course they won't.
Some lawyers though, they say can't afford to keep enabling the system. Callahan also spoke to Chris Pagan who's tried several death penalty cases in Butler County.
He said he can’t afford to handle these cases anymore, with the paltry fees he is allowed.
. . .
“The costs here are extremely low compared with the costs in other metropolitan areas,” he said. “The funding has to be leveled out in a statewide reasonable way.... Here they get a great bargain and I don’t know that the funds are sufficient. I’m not doing it anymore I can’t afford it. You get 40 bucks an hour and my overhead costs more than that. And it’s a thankless job.”
But it keeps going. There are some people though, says the Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser who are "perceived to be beyond redemption."
When the facts are clear and the conduct shocks and the person is perceived to be beyond redemption, the jury ought to have the opportunity to say ‘we don’t want to just lock you up we think you deserve not to breathe in our world anymore.’ Now that’s pretty cold, but let’s face it, the death penalty is a legal penalty under our law.”
Of course, perception isn't always accurate. Nor is judgment. And then there's that whole thing of who deserves to cast the first stone.
Not just in Butler County, of course.
Not even just in Ohio where we've killed four men so far this year. Where Reginald Brooks will or will not become the fifth.
And where we just planned two more murders for 2013.