Today marks the five-year anniversary of Ohio’s last execution, which took place on July 18, 2018. Ohio now joins 15 other states without an execution in the past five years.  Although there is no formal moratorium, Governor Mike DeWine has issued several reprieves due to concerns about the lethal injection protocol and the difficulty the state has had obtaining lethal injection drugs. Ohio has executed 56 people in the modern death penalty era, placing it 8th overall in the number of executions in the United States.  

Most recently, Governor Dewine issued a reprieve for Keith Lamar, postponing the original November 16, 2023 execution date to January 13, 2027. His office stated the reprieve was issued “due to ongoing problems involving the willingness of pharmaceutical suppliers to provide drugs to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC).” Citing the same problem in 2020, Governor DeWine issued three reprieves for executions scheduled from 2021 to 2023. According to the Lethal Injection Information Center of the International non-profit Reprieve, over 60 global healthcare companies worldwide have taken some form of action to ensure their products are not used in executions.

Dubbed a “broken capital-punishment system” by the Ohio Attorney General in its 2022 Capital Crimes report, high cost and lengthy death row confinement time are noted as key characteristics of the current system. Based on a variety of studies in other states, the Ohio Legislative Service Commission estimates an additional cost of $128 to $384 million to impose the death penalty on the remaining 128 prisoners on death row. With an ever-increasing average of 21 years on death row before an execution date is set, the report states that death by suicide or natural causes is more likely than an execution.

A bipartisan bill to abolish the death penalty was introduced in the Ohio Senate this year. The Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee held the first hearing on Senate Bill 101 on May 9, 2023. Sponsored by Democratic Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Senator Stephen Huffman (R-Tipp City), the bill also has bipartisan support from 10 cosponsors (4 Republican and 6 Democrat lawmakers). According to the editorial board of and The Plain Dealer, there is support for the bill amongst “more than a third of the state Senate” across the political spectrum and geographic regions.

Robert Van Hook, a veteran with a history of childhood abuse and untreated mental health issues at the time of the incident, was the last person executed in Ohio via lethal injection.