An Ohio Supreme Court justice who helped write the state’s death penalty law urged lawmakers Wednesday to repeal it.
“This is where the decision is made as to what should be the ultimate penalty,” Justice Paul Pfeifer, a Republican, said at an Ohio House of Representatives committee hearing. “I have concluded that the death sentence makes no sense to me at this point when you can have life without possibility of parole. I don’t see what society gains from that.”
Justice Pfeifer called on Republican Governor John Kasich in January to end capital punishment. A spokesman for the governor immediately shot down Pfeifer’s suggestion.
Wednesday marked the first time he testified before lawmakers that the death penalty should be repealed.
In 2003, Justice Pfeifer raised concerns about whether the death penalty was applied evenly based on race and geography during testimony before a House committee.
After his testimony, Justice Pfeifer said he doesn’t expect much support for his position in the GOP-controlled legislature either. Nevertheless, he laid out his case against the punishment, which he referred to as a “death lottery.”
Justice Pfeifer was testifying in support of House Bill 160, which would abolish the death penalty and resentence death row inmates to life in prison without parole.
Justice Pfeifer was chairman of the Ohio Senate’s Judiciary Committee in 1981 when the death penalty statute became law. Executions resumed in Ohio until 1999. Since then, the state has executed forty-six inmates. Twelve more are scheduled by September 2013.
Justice Pfeifer said the punishment was meant for the “worst of the worst” — but that is not always the case today. He also said the punishment is not an effective deterrent.
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