Ohio’s death penalty law after 40 years: Executions at a standstill

Samuel Moreland
Samuel Moreland

Forty years after Ohio adopted its current death penalty law, 336 people have been sentenced to death and 56 executions have been carried out but the system is at a standstill now as Ohio is unable to acquire the lethal injection drugs.

Since Ohio passed the capital punishment law in 1981, one of every six death sentences have been carried out, according to a newly released report by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. During that time time, 21 people have had their sentences commuted, 33 died of natural causes or suicide, and eight were removed from Death Row because they were found intellectually disabled.

Just one person — Joel Drain — was condemned to death in 2020. Drain pleaded no contest in Warren County in the April 2019 murder of another prison inmate.

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In Ohio, 82 death sentences were removed by judicial action due to legal errors, such as failure by prosecutors to share exculpatory evidence as required or ineffective counsel.

Yost blamed the delays on Ohio’s inability to get lethal injection drugs as well as inmates taking advantage of multiple avenues of appeal. At the end of 2020, 23 death penalty cases had been pending in federal court for a decade or more, the report said.

“In short, Ohio imposes death sentences on perpetrators of brutal and revolting murders, then spends years debating, reviewing, appealing and failing to act on those decisions,” Yost reported.

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In 2014, a task force made more than 50 recommended reforms for Ohio’s death penalty system but lawmakers have adopted only a handful, including a prohibition on executing people who suffered from serious mental illness at the time of the crime. Gov. Mike DeWine signed that measure into law.

There are currently 140 Ohioans on death row, including 13 who have spent 12,000 or more days awaiting execution.

Convicted murderer Samuel Moreland is the longest serving Dayton man on death row. In 1985 Tia Talbott returned home to find slain her mother, Glenna Green, 46; her sister, Lana Green, 23; her sons Datrin Talbott, 7, and Datwan Talbott, 6; and her niece Voilana Green, 6.

Three other children were beaten and/or shot: Tia’s daughter Glenna, 2; son Dayron, 11; and niece Tia Green, 5. Her son, Danyuel Talbott, 4, was physically unharmed.

Moreland, who has long maintained his innocence, exhausted his appeals and in 2014 won court approval for additional DNA testing on crime scene items. But the testing was delayed. In November 2020 the state lab reported that DNA on two items matched one of the victims and other items tested were inconclusive.

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