Ohio governor postpones 3 more executions scheduled in 2023

Apr 14, 2023, 3:40 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. Mike DeWine continued Ohio’s unofficial death penalty moratorium on Friday, postponing an additional three executions scheduled for this year.

DeWine, a Republican, attributed the need for the reprieves to the state’s ongoing inability to obtain drugs from pharmaceutical companies to carry out its lethal injection program. The state’s last execution was July 18, 2018, when Robert Van Hook was put to death for killing a man he met in a Cincinnati bar in 1985.

On Friday, DeWine postponed executions scheduled for August, September and October to three dates in 2026.

Two men remain scheduled for executions this year, the next being 1993 Lucasville prison riot.

The governor’s decision comes as momentum builds for Ohio to eliminate the death penalty altogether.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers proposed legislation to do so last month and Republican Attorney General Dave Yost also has called for revisiting the policy, which he calls “broken.”

In his March 31 capital crimes report, Yost found that from 1981 through Dec. 31, 2022, 336 people received a combined 341 death sentences — yet only 56 of those sentences were ever carried out.

That’s as Ohio spends “millions and millions,” he said, to fund its death row and litigate capital cases that cost between two-and-a-half and five times as much as noncapital cases.

DeWine on Friday moved the execution of Jerome Henderson from Sept. 14, 2023, to Oct. 21, 2026. Henderson was convicted in 1985 of aggravated murder, burglary and attempted rape of Mary Acoff in Cincinnati.

DeWine also again moved the execution of James O’Neal from Aug. 16, 2023, to Aug. 19, 2026. O’Neal was sentenced to die in 1995 for killing his wife, Carol.

The governor again moved the execution of Melvin Bonnell from Oct. 18, 2023, to Nov. 18, 2026. Bonnell was sentenced to die for killing Robert Bunner in Bunner’s Cleveland apartment in 1987.

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