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Discussion is long overdue

Opponents of the death penalty in Ohio have been pointing out its flaws since capital punishment was reinstated two decades ago, but public opinion has favored it narrowly and no one with the power to truly endanger it has stepped into the fray. Bills to abolish it have come and gone.

But now, two of the state’s most powerful political leaders — Gov. Mike DeWine and House Speaker Larry Householder, both Republicans — question whether the law benefits Ohio any more.

(…) People will continue to disagree on its morality: For some, it is the only fitting punishment for taking a life; others reject the idea that anything can justify purposefully killing a human being.

But one doesn’t need to moralize to make a case against capital punishment. Its practical drawbacks and lack of practical benefits have been apparent for a long time.

It is exceedingly expensive because most death-penalty trials rightly involve more investigation, more attorneys and more safeguards, and are subject to multiple levels of appeal. And as people sentenced to death are disproportionately poor, the public often pays for lawyers on both sides of the case.

The cost generally is several times what it would cost to keep the defendant in a maximum-security prison for 40 years. Housing Death Row inmates costs more than those in the general population.

(…) The difficulty, the cost and the lack of public benefit make Householder and DeWine right to question whether Ohio’s death penalty is worth keeping.

(…) Add all of these problems to the persistent racial disparities in the application of the death penalty — the fact that defendants of color are disproportionately likely to face death-penalty specifications, especially for crimes in which the victim is white — and there’s little to justify retaining it.

The only reason left for execution is vengeance, which is not an element of justice or the proper business of the state. It’s time for Ohio to do away with the death penalty.

— The Columbus Dispatch