By Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A newly formed conservative group is seeking an end to the death penalty in Ohio at a time when executions have ground to a halt in the state and the House speaker has questioned whether capital punishment should be reconsidered.
Ohio Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, which launched Tuesday in Columbus, is part of a network of similar groups nationwide. Members question the expense of capital punishment and have raised concerns about executing the innocent.
The Ohio chapter on Tuesday released a list of Republicans opposed to the death penalty. That tally includes former Gov. Bob Taft, former Attorney General Jim Petro and former U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi.
The list also includes three current GOP House legislators, including Rep. Laura Lanese, of suburban Columbus.
“To give big government power over life and death is rather concerning to a lot of us,” she said. The other House lawmakers are Rep. Craig Riedel, of Defiance, and Rep. Niraj Antani, of suburban Dayton, both of whom have previously co-sponsored legislation to end the death penalty in Ohio.
Republican House Speaker Larry Householder is not a member of the group but has recently questioned whether the state should reconsider capital punishment because of the cost and Ohio’s inability to find lethal drugs.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has acknowledged executions are at a standstill in Ohio because of the drug issue. Ohio’s last execution was carried out in July 2018.
Also Tuesday, the head of the Ohio Parole Board said it wants more information from prosecutors about a death row inmate’s claim he shouldn’t be executed because of his intellectual disability.
Condemned killer Gregory Lott is scheduled for execution in May 2021 for killing John McGrath in East Cleveland.
Lott’s lawyers asked the parole board last week to spare him, based in part on what they call his “limited mental abilities.” They also say that “when the events in question transpired he was dangerously abusing both alcohol and drugs” and has no recollection of the killing.
The parole board is seeking “additional information regarding Lott’s claim of intellectual disability for the Parole Board to consider in making its recommendation,” Trayce Thalheimer, the board chair, said in a letter Tuesday to the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office. Thalheimer set a March 31 deadline for the information.
Prosecutors said this month that experts hired by Lott previously determined he was not intellectually disabled. They also say multiple tests show Lott has an IQ above the level at which courts say people shouldn’t be executed.
They also question the report of a psychologist hired by Lott’s attorneys to review Lott’s earlier tests who maintains Lott is intellectually disabled.
The Cuyahoga prosecutor’s office said it will exhaust all options to ensure justice for Lott’s victim, including another expert evaluation if needed.
“This murderer has been evaluated numerous times by multiple experts, all of whom agree with The State’s position that he is not intellectually-disabled,” Prosecutor Michael O’Malley wrote in a statement.