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Death Penalty Cases: A Lengthy Process

There has been one death penalty trial in Washington County since the death penalty was reinstated in Ohio. Larry Lee was accused of killing his estranged wife and a male friend in 1983 in Marietta, but the jury couldn't reach a verdict on one of the two slayings.

"Everybody on the jury said that given the proper circumstances they would be able to find for the death penalty," Spahr recalled. "Then, right in the middle of the trial, one of the jurors decided she couldn't do that, and therefore created a hung jury."

One thing that didn't play a role in jury selection was pre-trial publicity.

"There were enough people form outlying parts of the county who had not read the paper or not watched television," Spahr says, "that it wasn't that tough to get a jury."

Spahr says the toughest part of a death penalty case doesn't involve the trial itself, but what comes after the conviction.

"You go through the trial, the Court of Appeals, the Ohio Supreme Court, through the federal system all the way to the (U.S.) Supreme Court. Then there's the post-conviction where someone goes through your file looking for something that isn't perfectly correct. They've just made it so discouraging if you have a capital case."

But while there's seemingly been a large number of Ohio executions since 1999, it doesn't match the number of prisoners put to death in Texas and the south.

The Ohio House of Representatives earlier this month approved a bill allowing a committee to conduct a study of capital punishment, but it isn't certain whether the State Senate will take up the measure before the current session ends in December.


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