Ohio Supreme Court Justice Finds Death Penalty Is Unconstitutional


Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill explained in a recent dissent from an order setting an execution date for Jeffrey Wogenstahl that the “death penalty is inherently both cruel and unusual and therefore is unconstitutional.”

Justice O’Neill has been a trial attorney, appeals court judge, and a pediatric emergency room nurse. He was elected last year after running a campaign that rejected outside contributions, saying money in judicial races has a corrupting effect. He unseated Republican Justice Robert Cupp.

In explaining his vote against setting an execution in Mr. Wogenstahl’s case, Justice O’Neill wrote: “Capital punishment dates back to the days when decapitations, hangings, and brandings were also the norm. Surely, our society has evolved since those barbaric days.” Observing that 17 states and the District of Columbia have eliminated the death penalty altogether, the dissent finds “that the death penalty is becoming increasingly rare both around the world and in America. By definition it is unusual.”

The dissent concludes that “[t]he time to end this outdated form of punishment in Ohio has arrived. While I recognize that capital punishment is the law of the land, I cannot participate in what I consider to be a violation of the Constitution I have sworn to uphold.”