Today, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters commented,
“I read with interest today the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center Report. I always appreciate community groups interested in the criminal justice system and their suggestions for ways to make it better.
Their complaints, which are not new, are best directed to the Ohio State Legislature. If the citizens of Ohio do not want the death penalty, they should let their legislators know and demand that the law be changed.
Currently, we have the death penalty available to us in Ohio. As your elected Hamilton County prosecutor, I am bound to follow the law. I only consider cases for death penalty eligibility if they meet the statutory criteria and, beyond that, if there is no issue of proof. I set the bar higher than the law requires and only the absolute worst cases are considered for death penalty prosecution.
The Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center might be surprised to know that I agree with many of their suggestions and comments. I support efforts to strengthen our community and provide mental health services, counseling and other programs to help people lead a productive life. In fact, I contribute money from the forfeiture fund to many agencies doing this important work. I also agree that defense attorneys who handle these cases should be adequately compensated. Also, there is no denying that these cases are expensive but we never equate prosecution or justice with how expensive it might be to prosecute a case.
I must take issue, however, with their comment that, “Of the 62 people sent to death row from Hamilton County since 1981, 25 of them were eventually removed (by commutation, judicial action, exoneration, etc.). While some Hamilton County death penalty cases have been reversed on a procedural issue or the governor has granted mercy through his commutation power, no death penalty defendant from Hamilton County has been “exonerated” or found “innocent.” “Innocent” to me means that the defendant did NOT commit the crime. “Innocence” to others sometimes means that a case got reversed on a legal technicality or other procedural irregularity having nothing to do with the culpability of the defendant.
If the citizens of Ohio want the law changed, they should contact their state representative and let him or her know. I have no quarrel with that. However, I am bound to follow the law and I will continue to do so.”