A key Senate leader is not on board with the bipartisan proposal to end Ohio’s death penalty

Posted on:

< < Back to

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — Opponents of Ohio’s death penalty have introduced legislation (SB 101) to abolish it. Now, the leader of the state senate is signaling where he stands on the issue.

Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) talks to reporters after Ohio Senate session on March 23, 2023
Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) talks to reporters after Ohio Senate session on March 23, 2023. [Jo Ingles | Statehouse News Bureau]
Some Senate Republicans and all of the Senate Democrats are on board with Senate Bill 101, which would abolish the death penalty in Ohio. Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said he doesn’t support that idea. But he said if backers of the bill get enough votes to pass it, he will let it come to the floor for a vote.

“It’s not going to not pass because of my personal opposition and we aren’t going to pass it because I have got to drag the 17th vote across the finish line,” Huffman said.

Huffman’s cousin Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) is one of the four GOP senators sponsoring the abolition bill. He said the death penalty is against his Catholic beliefs.

“There should be one being that decides whether you live or die and that’s the Lord,” Huffman said.

Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) has introduced this bill for the last decade. She said this bill would still have a serious penalty for those who are convicted of the most heinous crimes.

“We are moving to replace the death penalty and capital punishment when there is surety of the accused to a life in prison without parole,” Antonio said.

Backers of the bill said geography and race are factors in who gets the death penalty. They said people who live in some counties are less likely to more likely to get sentenced to death. And Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) said the death penalty is unfairly applied to minorities.

“A 2020 study examining the way the death penalty is applied in Hamilton County showed that Black men are three and five times more likely to receive a death sentence if their victim was white,” Craig said.

Freshman Sen. Michelle Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester) said courts are not infallible. She said execution is the wrong thing to do, especially when you consider the state has made mistakes in the past.

“We cannot tolerate putting an innocent person to death. Ohio is home to 11 death row exonerees who collectively have spent 216 years, incarcerated for crimes they did not commit,” Reynolds said.

Abolishing the death penalty has always been a popular idea among Democrats and has been favorable to more Republicans in recent years. But there still is not enough support, at this point, to pass it. Supporters are hoping as lawmakers hear testimony on the bill in the coming months, they will come around to supporting the legislation.