Kent was hopeful that Ohio, for the first time in recorded history, would put together a commission to "examine" the operation of the death penalty that wasn't stacked with either open or closet abolitionists. After just a couple of days, the reports out of it seem to squelch that hope.
The head of the panel, a retired state appeals court judge named James Brogan, got things started in the usual way, as these things go. He said, according to news reports, that he's worried about the discretion state prosecutors have in deciding whether to pursue a death sentence at all:
"Why is it that in one county the prosecutor seeks it on many more occasions than another prosecutor," Brogan said. "Is it because urban crime is so much more serious in a larger city than in a rural community?"....
Brogan said the committee should review the role of evidence in death penalty cases, and he questioned whether the standard of certainty should be changed to "beyond all doubt" instead of "beyond reasonable doubt."
"I am terribly concerned about whether in fact the death penalty is properly applied In this state and I hope we all ask the hard questions that need to be asked," Brogan said.
The hard question that actually ought to get asked, but won't be, is why the will of the people and the judgment of the jury is frustrated so often and for so long over procedural wrangling that a serious system could and would resolve in half the time. And, for that matter, why procedural wrangling so much occupies center stage when the prepossessing question ought simply to be: Do we have the right guy?
I never heard of Judge Brogan before, but if the news reports are accurate, he's just the latest in a long line of clueless, gutless jurists who want to play to the Elite Wisdom by ending the death penalty on the installment plan, even while pretending to respect the law.
I don't know whether there will ever be a death penalty commission that seeks honestly to improve the implementation of capital punishment rather than drive it into the ground, but, if there is, this one ain't it.