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Black faith leaders join Ohio’s Black Legislative Caucus in demanding the abolition of the death penalty

Published: May. 18, 2021 at 8:56 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Ohio Black Legislative Caucus and a number of Black faith leaders held a virtual news conference on Tuesday to announce that the abolition of the death penalty is now a top priority for the group.

“Whether a life-ending act is carried out on a Cleveland street or in a Chillicothe prison as authorized by the state, killing is wrong,” said Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr., executive director of Ohio Council of Churches.

Sullivan is also the brother of a murder victim; his sister was killed when she was 21-years-old.

“The public has every right to be outraged over violent, horrific acts,” he said. “[But] homicide to show that homicide is abhorrent is itself abhorrent.”

The official campaign to end Ohio’s death penalty, No Death Penalty OH, is a coalition of groups across the state calling for an end to what it calls an “expensive, racist, arbitrary system that convicts innocent people.”

They’re speaking out in support of bipartisan legislation in both the Ohio House and Senate that would abolish capital punishment.

“Specifically, it is not fair for Black people and more particularly, Black men,” said State Representative Stephanie Howse of Cleveland. “That should be really disturbing and so, this is a time and opportunity for leaders to join in in this movement to abolish the death penalty.”

According to federal government records, about 40 percent of all death row inmates are Black.

While that statistic doesn’t represent a full majority of death row inmates, the numbers are even more alarming when you consider the race of victims in capital punishment cases.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 1977 there have been more than 1,100 executions of convicted killers whose victim or victims were white.

By comparison, in the same timeframe, there were only 204 executions of convicted killers whose victim or victims were black.

Of those 204 executions, only 21 of the convicted killers were white.

In other words, people convicted of killing Black men and/or women have statistically avoided the death penalty at a greater rate than people convicted of killing white men and/or women.

But there are certainly voices within the Black community that support capital punishment.

“I want them to receive the death penalty,” Rochelle Moore told 19 News in 2020, referring to the two men arrested in the killing of her daughter, Shalaymiah.

Earlier this year, Gov. Mike DeWine delayed the three remaining executions scheduled for 2021. He has said, however, that he supports the death penalty.

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