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Ohio Justice Who Helped Write Death Penalty Law Now Opposes It

Posted Feb 15, 2012 9:27 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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An Ohio Supreme Court justice who helped write the state’s death penalty law as a state legislator in 1981 is now speaking out against it.

In December, Justice Paul Pfeifer testified in favor of a bill to abolish capital punishment, the Associated Press reports. "I have concluded that the death sentence makes no sense to me at this point when you can have life without the possibility of parole," he said.

Pfeifer’s public opposition has spurred at least two county prosecutors to call for the justice’s recusal in death penalty cases. One of them is Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, whom Pfeiffer cited in an interview last month with his hometown newspaper, Cincinnati.com reports.

“I know that Joe Deters in Hamilton County—his attitude is that they are all death penalty cases,” Pfeifer said. “It is just the luck of the draw as to where it happens.” Pfeifer has since said he was criticizing uneven application of the death penalty, rather than Deters. He says he still rules according to the law and the Constitution.

The Associated Press has a tally of Pfeifer's rulings in death penalty cases since 2001: He wrote the majority opinion upholding the death penalty in five cases, dissented in two others, and agreed with death sentences while disagreeing on aspects of the decision in four others.

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