For most of us, Death Row is something far away, but not so last week. I got to see something extraordinary. Six men presented their stories at the Ohio Statehouse about how they had been wrongfully incarcerated and had spent time on Ohio’s Death Row. Ricky Jackson, Kwanme Ajamu, Wiley Bridgeman, Joe D’Ambrosio, Derrick Jamison and Dale Johnston spent a combined 173 years behind bars before their convictions were overturned.
These gentlemen were at the Statehouse as part of a lobbying effort by Ohioans To Stop Executions. OTSE distributed to all state legislators its report “A Crumbling Institution: Why Ohio Must Fix or End the Death Penalty,” which reviews the many problems with the death penalty and recommendations that will bring greater consistency and fairness to the system. The death penalty should be abolished, but that’s probably a bridge too far right now. In the short term, correcting flaws would be a success.
What struck me about these six men was their quiet reserve. I didn’t detect any anger or bitterness. Instead, what I perceived was a tremendous sense of relief and gratitude for being freed, and some of these men had been released years ago. They all expressed the same sentiment: concern that the system is broken, and that it too often comes too close to executing the wrong person. It was humbling to listen to them.
It’s encouraging to know that several of Ohio’s former leaders and current and past Supreme Court justices question the viability of the death penalty. Among them are former Governor Bob Taft, former Attorney General Jim Petro, Supreme Court Justices Paul Pfeifer and William O’Neill, former Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton, and former Directors of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections Terry Collins and Reginald Williams.
To err is human, but to err with the death penalty is inexcusable, but it happens. Death Row is sometimes a place where innocent men go.
Jack D’Aurora writes for considerthisbyjd.com
Also published on Medium.
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