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VIEWS AND VOICES
A Democrat in charge of Ohio's death machine

June 1, 2007 | Page 4

OHIO'S EXECUTION machine is back in business, with a new boss signing the death warrants. The recently elected governor, Democrat Ted Strickland, presided over his first lynching April 24 with the lethal injection of James Filiaggi, and he planned to put another prisoner to death May 24.

Following Strickland's election in November, many opponents of the death penalty felt a sense of confidence. After eight years of Republican Gov. Robert Alphonso Taft II, whose regime executed 24 prisoners, the change appeared to offer hope.

Strickland postured as a pious Methodist minister and former prison psychologist (ironically, at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio, the location of the state's death chamber and scene of a 1993 prisoner rebellion). Shortly after taking office, Strickland placed a short moratorium on executions, saying that he didn't want to rush into things.

But it turns out that our new governor isn't much different from our old governor, when it comes to the death penalty. In late April, Strickland denied a last-minute appeal and signed a death warrant for Filiaggi.

Filiaggi was transferred from death row to the Lucasville death house and put on suicide watch--standard execution procedure to ensure the state's privilege to kill. In his final statement before the lethal injection induced cardiac arrest, Filiaggi said that while the death penalty was "fine for me," "there are many innocent prisoners on Ohio's death row."

Never mind that the American Psychological Association, which Strickland is a member of, has a resolution calling for a halt to executions (at least until the "deficiencies" are cleared up). Never mind that the Methodist church opposes all forms of capital punishment and supports abolition.

Never mind that during last year's botched execution of Ohio prisoner Joe Clark, witnesses heard Clark moaning as he was tortured to death for 90 minutes. Clark asked his executioners, "Can't you just give me something by mouth to end this?"

Never mind that in early April, a judge ordered a new trial for William Montgomery, on Ohio's death row for the past 20 years, because his attorneys weren't given a police report described as "material to the outcome."

The hypocrisy of Ted Strickland shouldn't have surprised us. As a member of Congress, he voted for the vile HR 4437 (Sensenbrenner bill) to criminalize undocumented immigrants. And when Bush announced plans to allow a mere 7,000 Iraqi refugees to emigrate to the U.S., Strickland smugly stated that they were not welcome in Ohio.

Like everywhere else, Ohio's death penalty is barbaric and must be abolished. What's obvious is that abolition will not come from politicians, no matter from which of the "official" parties. As with all wins for our side, it will be struggle built from below that matters. The time is ripe to advance this struggle.
Patrick Dyer, Toledo, Ohio

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