Ohio doesn't have an official moratorium on the death penalty, but a tangled combination of legal issues has produced an informal one after 26 executions spanning nine years.
The state carried out two executions last year, and four death sentences were handed down. Since 1999, when Ohio renewed executions, only one year saw fewer executions: 2001, when there was one.
As a result of the slowdown, there is a kind of backlog on Death Row, with 16 inmates considered closest to execution, but it is uncertain whether any executions will proceed in the near future, according to the annual Capital Crimes report compiled by Attorney General Marc Dann. The report does not predict when, or whether, those executions will happen.
The report is required by law to be sent to state officeholders and legislative leaders annually by April 1.
A lawsuit over the constitutionality of the lethal-injection process used by Kentucky and most other states, including Ohio, was argued earlier this year before the U.S. Supreme Court. Until the high court rules, state and federal courts nationwide have been unwilling to allow executions to proceed.
At the same time, Ohio has homegrown legal issues about lethal injection -- stemming from a case involving Richard Wade Cooey II, a Summit County man convicted of murdering two young women in 1986 -- as well as mental-retardation.
Both legal cases have been joined by several inmates, further slowing the machinery of the state's legal system, which as recently as 2004 sent seven men to their death at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.
The two executions last year were of James Filiaggi on April 24 and Christopher J. Newton exactly a month later.
Last year's four death sentences equaled the number in 2006. Between 2000 and 2007, the state had 50 death sentences. That's far fewer than the 123 from 1990 to 1999, according to Dann's report.
The 2007 report abandoned a practice used by two previous attorneys general by not summarizing cases that were inactive or stalled in either state or federal courts. The 2006 report, for example, listed 22 cases -- including three from Franklin County -- that had been inactive in state or federal courts for at least two years. One had been inactive for 14 years.
The three inmates who have fully exhausted their federal appeals are Jerome Henderson of Hamilton County, Charles Lorraine of Trumbull County and Gregory Lott of Cuyahoga County. None of the other 13 inmates closest to execution is from central Ohio.
The report, as in the past, includes information about 184 Death Row cases. Of the inmates, 52 percent are black, the average age is 44.3, and the average time on Death Row is 13.2 years.
Of the victims, 150 were males and 133 were females. Sixty-two percent were white; 60 were younger than 18.