Ohio House Speaker 'Less and Less Supportive' of Death Penalty

House Speaker Larry Householder told reporters today he's not as supportive of the death penalty as he once was due mostly to the cost and difficulty the practice presents.

Aug 20, 2019 at 1:33 pm
click to enlarge Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder - Ohio House of Representatives
Ohio House of Representatives
Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder

One of Ohio's top conservative state lawmakers says he's less convinced the death penalty is right for the state. 

Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder, a Republican, said today that he is less supportive of the state putting inmates to death than he used to be, mostly due to the difficulty executions present. 

Officials have run into roadblocks recently with the state's chosen execution method, a three-drug cocktail that includes the controversial drug midazolam. At the dosage levels that drug is administered during executions, critics say it creates a sensation like drowning, causing extreme distress to condemned inmates. 

That led a federal judge to express concerns about the constitutionality of the practice and a subsequent delay for the state's scheduled executions from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. Companies that manufacture the drug have also threatened to cut off sales to the state if officials use it for executions. 

The difficulties obtaining the drug, plus the expenses associated with carrying out executions related to court proceedings and other costs, have shaken Householder's belief that the practice is right for the state, he said.

"I think I'm probably like most Ohioans; there was a time that I was extremely supportive of the death penalty," Householder told reporters today. "But as time has gone on, I've become less and less supportive, just because of the matter of cost, for one. It is extremely expensive to put someone to death in lieu of keeping them (for) life in prison. And also, it's becoming more and more difficult to do an execution. Over the years, we've gone from electrocution to lethal injection, and now there are issues raised about lethal injection. It's just become more and more difficult to do and it's more expensive."

That doesn't mean Householder is calling for the abolition of the death penalty, necessarily. He has indicated he's waiting for viable alternatives that could permit the state to start up scheduled executions again. The state has an execution tentatively scheduled for November and another for December. 

But one solution proposed by Republican State Rep. Scott Wiggam — using fentanyl seized during drug busts to execute prisoners — is a no-go for Householder, he has said. The most powerful Republican in the Ohio House of Representatives says he doesn't think using powerful synthetic opiates seized on the streets is constitutional. DeWine has expressed similar reservations about the proposal.

A decade ago, Ohio was among the most prolific states in the nation when it came to executions, putting eight people to death in 2010 alone. But the last execution the state performed happened last summer — the only one that year — and it is unclear how the state will move forward with putting people to death.

The governor told the Ohio Statehouse News Bureau earlier this week that he's unsure there is a legal way to carry out executions under state law.

"We see no protocol that we could put forward that would be allowed under Ohio law," he said.