Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial calls for Ohio death penalty study:
The Cleveland Plain Dealer has this editorial, entitled "The quality of Ohio's justice: Are we comfortable with executions?"
The most solemn duty performed by a governor is the decision to grant or deny clemency. Immediately upon taking office, the last two men elected governor of Ohio have faced the sobering task of determining whether an inmate should live or die.
Gov. Bob Taft was confronted with the case of Wilford Berry, who had killed a Cleveland baker execution-style in 1989. After studying the case and considering the recommendation of the parole authority to execute, Taft denied clemency.
Gov. Ted Strickland now confronts the case of a killer named Kenneth Biros, who in 1991 raped, murdered and dismembered a woman he had met in a bar hours earlier. Biros' execution was scheduled for Tuesday, but Strickland has delayed it until at least March, because he wants more time to study this case and to determine his comfort level with the way Ohio administers the death penalty.
Both Taft and Strickland favor capital punishment. Both also acknowledge deep concerns about the possibility of wrongful convictions in capital cases. But Strickland seems committed to a long-overdue, systematic re-examination of the death sentence and the way it is applied in Ohio.
That is encouraging. Ohio's courts and legislature, as well as some of its governors, have struggled with the question of capital punishment's appropriateness:
Is it applied fairly without respect to considerations such as a convict's race, socioeconomic status or age? Do geographical or other external factors influence who is indicted with capital specifications and then convicted of capital crimes?
Strickland seems uncertain that the system is as trustworthy as it can be. With the delay in Biros' execution, he has sent a signal that he wants greater clarity. Given his lack of urgency about employing the executioner, now would be a good time for Strickland to order an executive study into the consistency and fairness of the way Ohio metes out and administers its death sentence. Too many questions have lingered for too long.