Amid controversy in Ohio, more young people oppose death penalty

Nicholas Hunter

Opposition to the death penalty being used in murder cases is at its lowest since 1972, with 42 percent of respondents opposing it, a 2016 Pew Research poll has found.

The poll also showed that younger respondents tend to be even more opposed to the death penalty; 51 percent oppose the death penalty, according to the poll — the highest of any age group.

With new opposition, the state continues to face difficulties in administering executions.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced on Feb. 10 that the execution dates of eight death-row inmates would be postponed.

Despite having 142 people on death row in Ohio, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), the state has not carried out an execution since 2014. This is due to a botched execution earlier that year that left Dennis McGuire gasping for air for around 25 minutes before the lethal drugs used took effect. This forced the state to find a new execution formula thus pausing executions.

On Jan. 26, however, a ruling from a federal judge said he believed that the new three-drug combo the state planned to use could not ensure that inmates being put to death would be in a deep enough sleep to not feel any pain during the process.

Associate professor of sociology David Kessler said he sees this downward trend as a good thing.

“We’re finding that we make a lot of mistakes,” Kessler said about executions.

Since 1972, 157 death row inmates have later been found innocent and freed before executions, while at least ten more people in that same time frame were later believed to be innocent despite being executed, according to the DPIC.

Anthony Erhardt, president of the Kent State College Democrats, said that they “echo the Democratic Party’s stance” on executions, which is that “it has no place in the United States of America,” according to the National Democratic Party platform. In that same statement, they called the death penalty “a cruel and unusual form of punishment” and cited the cost to taxpayers, lack of crime deterrence and number of exonerations as other reasons they are opposed to it.

The 2016 Pew study also cited numbers from the previous year that showed 63 percent of respondents find the death penalty morally acceptable, while 31 percent find it morally objectionable.

President of the Kent State College Republicans Jennifer Hutchinson falls within the latter category. She said that, although the group does not have a collective stance on the death penalty, she is not in favor of it.

“I’m somebody that’s not very pro-execution for moral reasons and for financial reasons, to be honest,” Hutchinson said.

“Our justice system is not, by any means, perfect enough to make irreversible punishments,” Kessler said. “More and more people are aware of this problem … and they are changing their minds about something they can’t correct or compensate for. I don’t think we should be using capital punishment anymore. We can keep society safe without it.”

Nicholas Hunter is a general assignment reporter, contact him at [email protected].