Columbus -- Gov. John Kasich and legislative leaders reiterated their support Jan. 30 for the death penalty, indicating they would not support a moratorium on lethal injections following the prolonged execution of a Preble County murderer earlier this month.
Kasich, Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder, Republican Senate President Keith Faber and Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) appeared to be on the same page on the issue during a daylong forum sponsored by the Ohio Associated Press that gave reporters from around the state an opportunity to question elected officials on different issues.
All were asked about the status of capital punishment in the state, following the execution of Dennis McGuire.
"I think that we need to keep the death penalty on the table … at the same time making sure that we find the most humane ways possible to deal with this issue." Schiavoni said. "I think that, although there may not be evidence to show that it's a deterrent … this is something that we need to keep in our justice system for the family of the victims."
"I look at this very, very carefully, but I am a supporter of the death penalty because I think what when somebody's life is taken, made in the image of God, the death penalty is an appropriate response," Kasich added during a later session.
Only House Minority Leader Tracy Heard (D-Columbus) voiced support Jan. 30 for ceasing executions for the moment while issues involved are debated.
"I think there's a lot to consider, most importantly the fact that we have not yet found any evidence to indicate that this is a deterrent," she said. "… Why are we continuing to go down a road that is not providing any other satisfaction for the families and in fact protracting their engagement with this and delaying their opportunity to heal."
McGuire, sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a pregnant woman 25 years ago, was the first inmate executed using a new two-drug combination. The process took about 25 minutes, and witnesses described him gasping for breath.
McGuire's family has filed suit, and another inmate has filed a legal challenge hoping to block his execution, scheduled to take place in March. Some state lawmakers and groups also have called on Gov. John Kasich to institute a moratorium on lethal injections.
State prison officials and Attorney General Mike DeWine are not commenting on McGuire's execution, saying only that a standard review is under way, as is done for each death sentence that is carried out.
The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction this week did released three incident reports that quoted prison staff who overheard McGuire saying he was told by attorneys to put on a show during his execution. Federal public defenders deny those allegations.
Kasich said Jan. 30 he is waiting for DRC's review of McGuire's execution.
"I want to hear what they have to say upon completion of that," he said. "I do not believe they're going to come back and recommend that we don't do this anymore. They're looking at what the impact was. What happened in there. And if there's adjustments to be made, they will come and recommend them."
He added, "But this does not take away from the fact that I think the death penalty is appropriate."
Faber said the victims are getting lost in the debate about McGuire's execution.
"I used to represent Preble County where this gentleman committed his crime," he said. "And I can tell you that crime is one that is horrendous, and let's remember the victims when we have this discussion."
He added, "I don't think my caucus supports a moratorium at this time. … I think we need to make sure that we have an ultimate sanction and we do it in a balanced approach."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.