Exonerated Ohio men push to eliminate or reform death penalty

The Columbus Dispatch reports that six men who were wrongfully sentenced to death in Ohio are now speaking out against the death penalty. At a Statehouse news conference this week, Kwame Ajamu, Joe D’Ambrosio, Ricky Jackson, Derrick Jamison, Dale Johnston and Wiley Bridgeman spoke out urging elimination or reform of the death penalty in Ohio. Each of the men had been sentenced to death and later exonerated of his crime. According to the Dispatch, the men spoke in favor of abolishing the death penalty, or, failing that, implementing reforms proposed last year by the Ohio Supreme Court's Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty.

The death penalty is always a controversial topic and has gained significant attention in Ohio over the past year, since the execution of Dennis McGuire in January 2014. McGuire was executed by a previously unused cocktail of lethal injection drugs, which resulted in the inmate gasping and struggling for over 20 minutes before his death. A federal judge subsequently issued a moratorium on executions in Ohio until January 2015.

The drugs used in McGuire's case were midazolam and hydromorphone instead of Ohio's typical pentobarbital, which had become increasingly difficult to obtain. In an effort to increase access to its preferred execution drugs Ohio then passed a law guaranteeing anonymity to their manufacturers, which became effective this March. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to Oklahoma's execution drug protocol, which includes use of the drug midazolam, according to SCOTUS Blog.

The Washington Post reported in January that Ohio postponed all executions scheduled for this year in order to obtain new drugs and prepare new execution protocols. Executions are scheduled to resume in January 2016, with the lethal injection of Ronald Phillips who was convicted of the rape and murder of a three-year-old girl in 1993.