Lawyers: Juries, Not Judges, Should Impose Death Sentences

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Lawyers for a former death row inmate have told the Ohio Supreme Court that the state’s capital punishment law is unconstitutional because judges, not juries, are imposing death sentences.

Lawyers for convicted killer Maurice Mason say the U.S. Constitution requires juries to impose death sentences. They say a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring Florida’s death penalty law unconstitutional should apply in Ohio.

If Ohio juries recommend capital punishment, judges impose the sentence. Ohio judges can reject death sentences, but can’t impose them if juries don’t recommend them.

Justices held a hearing Tuesday morning.

The 54-year-old Mason was sentenced to die for raping and killing a woman in Marion County in 1993. A federal appeals court overturned his death sentence but he remains imprisoned. He’s challenging a new sentencing hearing.