COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost used the recent release of the 2022 Capital Crimes Report to critique Ohio’s capital punishment system.
“I personally support the death penalty, especially for the most abhorrent offenders, but I am only one voice,” Yost said. “Let’s open up the conversation and allow victims’ families to be heard.”
The Capital Crimes report provides history of every case that has resulted in a death sentence since Ohio’s death-penalty law was put into place in 1981.
From 1981 through December 31, 2022, the report says, out of 341 death sentences there have been only 56 carried out sentences.
“The facts and trends illuminated in this report are an indictment of Ohio’s broken system,” the report’s Executive Summary says. “It is a system that is not fairly, equally or promptly enforced, and because of that it invites distrust and disrespect for the rule of law.”
In Ohio, the average condemned inmate spends 21 years on death row.
“If we were starting from scratch to design a system for the ultimate punishment — whether that punishment is execution or, instead, life in prison without parole — neither death-penalty opponents nor death-penalty supporters would create anything like Ohio’s current system, which produces churn, waste, and endless lawsuits and nothing else,” the Executive Summary says.
Yost mentioned the Trumbull County case of Danny Lee Hill. He called it an example of the system’s failure in the case. Hill, who has been on Death Row for 37 years and, in that time, has filed more than 25 appeals in an effort to avoid execution. On March 20, in response to yet another appeal, a federal appeals court agreed to reconsider a previous order allowing him to seek federal relief yet again.
“Danny Lee Hill raped, tortured and murdered a 12-year old Warren boy, Raymond Fife, in 1985,” Yost said. “His ability to delay – again and again and again – what a jury determined to be a just punishment for his unspeakable crimes is one example of many that reinforce just how broken the system is. Where is the closure for the young victim’s family?”
Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins, who prosecuted Hill for his crimes, says the state has failed Raymond Fife’s loved ones.
“Justice is a journey, and it doesn’t end for a victim’s family until sentencing is carried out,” Watkins said. “The Attorney General’s Office has been fighting for the Fife family in federal court for over 20 years to see that Danny Lee Hill’s state court convictions and death sentence are upheld. It’s long past time for justice in this case.”
You can view the 2022 Capital Crimes Report on the attorney general’s website.
Patty Coller contributed to this report.