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Momentum continues to build to abolish the death penalty in Ohio
Ohio's last execution was four years ago yesterday, and advocates for ending the death penalty are hopeful it remains the last.
People at rallies for a "Day of Hope" in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland called for an end to capital punishment.
Kwame Ajamu of Cleveland is among the 11 people in Ohio exonerated from death row. Now the Chairman of the group Witness to Innocence, he explained that, at age 17, he was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death due to false eyewitness testimony and police misconduct.
"It took 39 years of my life to prove my innocence and become exonerated," said Ajamu. "We should not be in that barbaric stage anymore in our humanity, and as long as I have breath, I will stand forcibly against capital punishment."
In the Ohio Legislature, House Bill 183 and Senate Bill 103 have bipartisan support and if passed, would make Ohio the 24th state to abolish the death penalty. But some who favor the death penalty believe it's morally justified for those who commit murder.
Ohio has had an unofficial execution moratorium for four years due to ongoing conflicts with pharmaceutical suppliers, with eight reprieves already issued for executions this year.
Bekky Baker, program manager for Death Penalty & Peace and Nonviolence with the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Cincinnati, said the state has never been this close to abolishing capital punishment.
"We've had some terribly botched executions," said Baker. "We have an inability to obtain the injection drugs. So there's really no humane way to kill a person. So, we keep pushing back execution dates - and really, we should just get rid of the system as a whole."
And a majority in polls are concerned about innocent people being put to death. Ajamu argued that Ohioans deserve a system of equal justice.
"The people here deserve - with knowledge, understanding, and proper reasoning - a better focal point towards how we should go forward as human beings," said Ajamu, "as opposed to staying in the dark and always just wanting to put somebody to death."
A 2020 Ohio poll found 69% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans support death penalty repeal.