April 17, 2023: This week’s editorials from Ohio newspapers


Cleveland Plain Dealer. April 14, 2023.

Editorial: Ohio should abolish the death penalty – now

A bipartisan group of state senators is sponsoring a bill to repeal Ohio’s death penalty law. The General Assembly should approve it and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine should sign the repeal.

This is not a new position for our editorial board. We have been calling for an end to the state’s death penalty since at least 1983, two years after lawmakers enacted the current law. Our editorials argued against the death penalty on many grounds — from practicalities and costs to the basic unfairness of a penalty that disproportionately targeted minorities and the poor. As we commented two years ago, Ohio’s death penalty has been used “not for the worst of the worst, but for marginalized Ohioans, those of color, of low-income, those with mental deficiencies, those who couldn’t afford the best of the best defense counsel.”

We’ve also noted the absolutism of a punishment from which there can be no return, even when later evidence, including DNA evidence, exonerates the person who’s already been put to death. And that’s not to mention basic ethical and moral considerations. A 1989 editorial spoke of capital punishment as “a barbaric way for a civilized society to express its outrage about violent crime.”

That’s why it’s so notable that bipartisan sentiment seems to be building at the Statehouse to retire a penalty that, because of a lack of death-penalty drugs, is no longer workable, yet leads to added taxpayer costs because of the extra legal safeguards required for those facing capital punishment.

Prime sponsors of the death penalty repeal, Senate Bill 101, introduced on March 29, are Sens. Nickie Antonio, a Lakewood Democrat, and Steve Huffman, a Tipp City Republican.

The repeal’s co-sponsors are Democratic Sens. Hearcel Craig and Bill DeMora, both of Columbus; Paula Hicks-Hudson, of Toledo; Catherine Ingram, of Cincinnati; Kent Smith, of Euclid; and Vernon Sykes of Akron; and Republican Sens. Louis W. Blessing, of suburban Cincinnati; George Lang, of West Chester; Michele Reynolds, of Canal Winchester; and Kristina Roegner, of Hudson.

That’s more than a third of the state Senate right there.

The death penalty is not just barbaric but has become, practically speaking, all but unworkable in Ohio. As it is, DeWine has imposed what amounts to a de facto moratorium on executions in Ohio. Stated reason: The state’s inability to obtain appropriate lethal-injection drugs for executions.

“There’s been no executions in Ohio since I became governor (in January 2019). I don’t anticipate there will be,” DeWine recently said. In 1981, as a state senator, DeWine voted for Ohio’s current death penalty law, which took effect later that year, and the governor has never said he opposes the death penalty as such.

Now awaiting execution on Ohio’s death row are 122 men and one woman. Ohio didn’t execute anyone from early in 1963 until early 1999. That’s when Ohio executed convicted murderer Wilford Berry Jr., termed the volunteer because he waived his right to further appeals. Berry had been convicted of the 1989 shooting death his employer, Charles Mitroff, of Cleveland.

Including Berry, Ohio has executed 56 inmates since 1999, the last, Robert Van Hook, in 2017, during the administration of Republican Gov. John R. Kasich, DeWine’s predecessor.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 23 states — including neighboring Michigan and West Virginia — don’t have the penalty, and Pennsylvania has a gubernatorial hold on executions.

And nationally, through 2022, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, “Since 1973, 190 former death-row prisoners have been exonerated of all charges related to the wrongful convictions that had put them on death row.” Of them, 103 were Black defendants, the center reported.

Wrongful convictions, and not just in death penalty cases, are an acknowledged challenge in the American justice system. Approaches to righting the wrongful convictions of innocent Ohio defendants were reviewed by the Ohio Supreme Court’s Task Force on Conviction Integrity and Postconviction Review. It recommended last year that the General Assembly create a Statewide Independent Innocence Inquiry Commission akin to North Carolina’s, to investigate post-conviction claims of innocence.

The bipartisan group that has joined Antonio and Huffman in calling for death-penalty repeal runs the political spectrum from conservative to liberal and is geographically balanced among Ohio’s regions.

Given DeWine’s at-best ambivalent and arguably negative perspective on the death penalty, the time is right for the General Assembly to come together to end capital punishment in Ohio. Its inequities are manifest, its barbarism is clear — and its time has passed.


Toledo Blade. April 14, 2023.

Editorial: Bragg calls out Jordan

Alvin Bragg is demonstrating that he is the right man at the right time.

His lawsuit against Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan provides an opportunity for courts to weigh in on Mr. Jordan’s peculiar “weaponization of government” subcommittee.

Mr. Bragg is the Manhattan District Attorney who has brought 34 felony counts against former President Donald Trump.

Many have weighed in on Mr. Bragg’s unusual investigation merging alleged violation of a state statute with an alleged violation of a federal statute.

The indictment contends that Mr. Trump filed false business records to conceal a $130,000 hush-money payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels, thereby violating campaign finance law.

Critics suggest that prosecuting on federal statutes is not the proper purview of the Manhattan district attorney, anymore than it would be for an elected county prosecutor in Ohio.

Whatever merit there is to those accusations will be sorted out by the courts as Mr. Bragg’s case proceeds.

With his lawsuit filed on Tuesday, Mr. Bragg is calling out Mr. Jordan’s misuse of his congressional committee and demanding to know what legal basis he has to interfere in his prosecution of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Bragg called Mr. Jordan’s insertion of his ad hoc committee into the Manhattan prosecution of Mr. Trump “an unprecedentedly brazen and unconstitutional attack” on a local criminal case.

Mr. Jordan, whose 4th Congressional District includes Allen County in northwest Ohio, has demanded answers from Mr. Bragg about the case, and he has subpoenaed a former prosecutor in Mr. Bragg’s office, Mark Pomerantz, who has written a book about his time in the office.

The lawsuit accuses Mr. Jordan, a Republican, of inappropriately second-guessing the judgment of New York citizens and interfering with the state criminal justice process in New York.

Related to this is Mr. Trump’s own inappropriate rhetoric, which is undoubtedly the reason for the more than 1,000 calls and emails from Trump supporters, including death threats and a package containing a white powder.

The Bragg lawsuit contends that Mr. Jordan’s subpoena of Mr. Pomerantz aims to reveal sensitive and confidential local prosecutorial information.

Mr. Jordan’s “weaponization” subcommittee so far has been all hot air and political posturing, of which the inquiry into the Bragg indictment of Mr. Trump is another example.

The committee itself is the best example ever created of the “weaponization” of the government.

Mr. Jordan’s defense of his committee’s overreach makes a false assertion when he says that Mr. Bragg’s office “indict(ed) a president for no crime.”

Mr. Trump isn’t a president.

And the jurors of Manhattan will decide if a crime was committed.


Youngstown Vindicator. April 12, 2023.

Editorial: Ohio falls short in tax spending for education

Tax season is winding down, with this year’s April 18 deadline to file coming in less than a week.

The season is usually a time of being reminded just how much our state and federal governments take from us each year. Sure, there is often a refund, but for the most part, all taxpayers see is how much has been removed from their hard-earned paychecks. For those in some states, it really does feel as though that money is gone forever, to be used to the benefit of someone else. But here’s some good news for Ohioans.

Here in our state, according to WalletHub’s “2023’s States with the Best and Worst Taxpayer ROI,” we have a better chance of seeing that money do some good for us right here at home.

Ohio ranks ninth in the nation in terms of taxpayer return on investment. Not too bad, particularly when one considers the 50th ranked state is California. The Buckeye State is 14th when it comes to total taxes paid per capita; 26th for overall government services; 17th for safety and 19th for infrastructure and pollution.

Now here’s the bad news. We are 28th for economy; 30th for health; and an upsetting 35th for education.

Authors of the report said they were looking to find out “where do taxpayers get the most and least bang for their buck?” Generally speaking, the report shows taxpayers in red states get a better taxpayer return on investment than those in blue states.

But imagine how much more Ohioans could be getting if lawmakers and other public officials did right by us when it comes to education. (That’s where places such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland are excelling). Our access to quality, affordable health care is a bit of problem, too.

It seems as though, as encouraging as such a ranking might be, there is enough room for improvement that those in state government should take a look at what is happening in the highest-ranking states and find out where some of it would work in Ohio. We’ve let education fall to the bottom of the priority list for too long. While we’re doing so well in so many other categories, it is time lawmakers do more than pretend they care about education and give us the return on investment we deserve for our children, too.


Elyria Chronicle. April 11, 2023.

Editorial: Endangered dissent

Remember last year when Ohio Republicans were openly mulling impeaching Maureen O’Connor, then the chief justice of the state Supreme Court?

It wasn’t because O’Connor, a Republican, had done anything illegal or unethical. No, her sin was siding with the court’s three Democratic justices in declaring that gerrymandered congressional and state legislative maps were unconstitutional.

Republicans ultimately decided to wait out O’Connor, who had been barred from seeking another term last year because of her age. The GOP still has a four-justice majority on the seven-member court, and we suspect that the next round of maps Republicans submit will somehow withstand the court’s scrutiny.

We were reminded of the failed plan to oust O’Connor last week when Republicans in the Tennessee House of Representatives voted to expel two of the three Democratic members who had vocally sided with protesters demanding gun reform.

The protests came in the aftermath of the mass shooting on March 27 at a private Christian school in Nashville that left three 9-year-old students and three staff members dead. Police shot and killed the shooter.

Such shootings are sadly commonplace in the United States. (Four people died and nine were wounded in a shooting Monday at a Louisville bank before police shot and killed the gunman). Calls to do something inevitably follow such tragedies, but usually nothing happens.

Tennessee Republicans could have tackled the issue, but instead they decided to punish their political rivals for demanding change.

Democratic Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson were accused of violating the Tennessee chamber’s rules of decorum. Jones and Pearson, who are both Black, were expelled along largely party-line votes. Johnson, who is white, survived by a single vote. (Jones was reappointed to his seat by the Nashville Metropolitan Council on Monday.)

The punishments were rightly and widely decried as undemocratic, although Tennessee Republicans insisted that they were justified.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton suggested to a Knoxville radio station that the protests were an “insurrection” comparable to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that was predicated on then-President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud.

Not even close.

No one was injured in the Tennessee protests. No one attacked police officers. No one was even arrested.

The protests were disruptive, but they were peaceful.

Using the levers of power to punish dissent or to get their way has become an all-too-familiar tactic that Republicans have employed across the nation.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for instance, has used the power of the state to target Disney for criticizing his draconian “Don’t Say Gay” law. Talk about weaponization of the government, something Republicans are quick to decry whenever someone in government does something they don’t like.

Sometimes Republicans even turn on each other, as happened to the GOP members of Congress who voted to impeach Trump for winding up his supporters, some of whom stormed the U.S. Capitol.

For example, Ohio Republicans censured then-U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Rocky River, over his impeachment vote, and he decided not to seek reelection last year.

Or consider how the Ohio Republican Party’s Central Committee reacted to the election of state Rep. Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, as speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives in January.

Stephens received votes from 22 Republicans and all 32 Democrats. The state party censured those Republicans for having supported Stephens instead of state Rep. Derek Merrin, R-Monclova Township, who had won a caucus vote in November.

Republicans have even gone after voters, as evidenced by a string of red-state measures designed to make it harder to vote. Ohio got in on that action, with Republicans pushing through strict photo ID requirements for voters and eliminating in-person early voting the day before Election Day.

Ohio Republicans even want to make it harder for voters to amend the Ohio Constitution by raising the threshold to pass amendments to 60 percent, up from a simple majority. Some of them even want to bring back August special elections, which they just voted virtually to eliminate, because they hope that amendment will be easier to pass in a low-turnout summer election.

Their goal is to have the higher threshold for passage in place before a proposed reproductive and abortion rights amendment makes it to the ballot, something widely expected to happen in November.

Every voter, regardless of party, should be wary of these undemocratic tactics.

Democracy needs dissent.


Sandusky Register. April 15, 2023.

Editorial: Protect victims’ rights

It works better on TV, on shows like “Law & Order” and the like. But in real life, there’s more law than order. If one thing is clear to us it is that victims’ rights need to be better protected. Look no further than Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost for evidence of that.

Yost is the attorney general who in 2020 targeted a woman who filed a complaint of sexual misconduct allegedly committed by a police officer. The AG had her indicted and hoped to send her to prison, saying she lied about what happened.

Fortunately, the judge in the case saw through the horrendous miscarriage of justice that Yost was pursuing and acquitted the woman at trial. Yost never apologized, never explained and never heard the testimony of two other women who filed complaints against the same man, accusing him of rape twice before, under similar circumstances.

Yost is no victims’ advocate. The man was never charged.

In another case, Yost refuses to present evidence to a grand jury against a wealthy Ottawa County man who has been accused three times of sexual misconduct, accusations that are supported by linked DNA samples.

In numerous police misconduct cases, also, Yost looks the other way. An incident in 2021 captured in police body camera video showing a woman in handcuffs being brutally assaulted and taken to the ground by a Put-in-Bay police officer resulted in no charges being filed. A rape allegation against another island police officer never was properly investigated. False reports about bribes and threats were ignored.

The disregard for victims is the reason Ohioans voted for Marsy’s Law in November 2017, making Ohio the sixth state to enact laws protecting victims. It gives crime victims meaningful and enforceable constitutional rights equal to the rights of the accused. It requires that they be treated with dignity and respect throughout criminal justice proceedings; that they be notified of their rights; and that they be notified and afforded the opportunity to be present at specific public proceedings throughout the criminal justice process.

This is basic. We’ve seen and reported on so many abuses that victims endure, too often, but guaranteeing the rights of victims must start somewhere and this, in our view, was a good start in 2017. But the effort was flawed, marred from the start by the fact that it failed to say who was responsible for enforcing it, and what the penalties are for failing to do so.

Gov. Mike DeWine signed legislation aimed at fixing what needed fixed, and then some. It went into effect April 6.

The changes require that law enforcement officers give victims written notification of their rights. On first or second contact, victims are to be handed a pamphlet from the Ohio attorney general’s office that contains a compilation of all constitutional provisions and statutes related to victim rights.

This is an upgrade — a needed adjustment. And we trust the attorney general’s pamphlet will include contact numbers and “hotlines” that victims can call for when they need help and it’s not there. The important thing, then and therefore, is for the Ohio Attorney General to make sure there’s someone there to answer the phone and respond to the call.

The AG office’s track record on that isn’t so good. There have been several reports from callers to the AG’s hotline that the crime tip hotline doesn’t get answered and messages are not returned. When asked for comment, Yost did not respond.

Maybe the first lesson about victims’ rights that Yost and everyone at the attorney general’s office should learn is to… pick up the phone.

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