According to a review by the Associated Press, at least one county in Ohio appears to be using the death penalty as a way of obtaining plea bargains. For example, the chief Prosecutor of Cuyahoga County (Ohio), Bill Mason, originally announced his intent to seek the death penalty against six men who were indicted days after a drug-related slaying in suburban Cleveland. However, plea bargains were granted in all of the cases, and four of the men received probation and never even went to prison. The case cost Cuyahoga County taxpayers more than $120,000 because it originally involved capital punishment. From 2009 to 2011, Cuyahoga County indicted 135 defendants on charges that could have resulted in a death sentence. However, only two of those offenders were sent to death row. The rest either pleaded guilty, usually with the death penalty charges withdrawn, or were convicted but not sentenced to death. Joe Deters, a prosecutor in Hamilton County, Ohio, said, “To use the death penalty to force a plea bargain, I think it’s unethical to do that.” Ohio state public defender Tim Young agreed, saying that charging lesser offenses as death penalty cases “seems like a wildly dangerous use” of capital punishment. Across the state, most prosecutors are using the death penalty far more sparingly. Mason said he seeks the death penalty to “equally apply the law.”

An American Bar Association study of Ohio’s death penalty also cited the high number of capital indictments in Cuyahoga County.

(A. Welsh-Huggins, “Critics accuse Ohio prosecutor of using death penalty threat as bargaining chip,” Associated Press, May 16, 2012). See Arbitrariness and listen to DPIC’s podcast on Arbitrariness.