Death sentences and elected judges, an Ohio Supreme Court case analyzed

A Reuters article published this week discussed death sentences in states where judges are elected versus where they are appointed, with a particular focus on the Ohio Supreme Court. According to their analysis, appointed state supreme court judges reversed death sentences twice as often as those who are elected by voters. Ohio Supreme Court justices are directly elected.

The article examined a case we discussed last October, in which a divided Ohio Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of Ashford Thompson, who was convicted of killing a police officer in 2010. While the Court unanimously upheld his conviction, Justices Pfeifer, Lanzinger and O'Neill would have struck down the death sentence, largely based on mitigating factors such as Thompson's character, education, employment and community involvement. The article references the fact that two of the justices who voted to uphold the sentence were facing an election a week after the decision was issued.

Thompson's attorneys have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, arguing that a potential African-American juror was improperly dismissed and that Justice French, who wrote the majority opinion, was influenced by her re-election bid in reaching her decision. The Supreme Court is scheduled to determine whether the hear Thompson's case at the September 28 conference.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.