Sanctuary Columbus Church is joining many churches and faith groups throughout the state to explore the realities of the death penalty in Ohio.
As a beloved community, transformed by Jesus and united in service, our voices are instrumental to the cause of dismantling systemic forms of injustice within our communities.
And to that end, we invite you to reflect on the facts and myths that highlight the injustice woven into the death penalty in Ohio and to prayerfully consider what it means to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God as participants of our country’s legal system.
Facts + Myths
- MYTH: Every person who commits a capital crime receives a fair and just punishment regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status.
- FACT: More than 70% of people on Ohio's death row are there for a murder of a white person, even though more than half of all homicide victims are Black. Of the 138 inmates on Ohio's death row, more than half are people of color even though they only make up 16% of Ohio's population. Data shows that 87% of Black exonerees who were sentenced to death were victims of official misconduct compared to 67% of white death row exonerees.
- MYTH: People are on death row because they committed the worst crimes.
- FACT: Severity of the crime does not determine who gets a death sentence. Access to adequate defense counsel, the county where the crime was committed, and the county prosecutor's personal views and approach to the death penalty are the biggest factors in determining whether or not someone receives a death sentence. Just five counties in Ohio - Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas, and Summit - are responsible for 68% of Ohio death cases.
- MYTH: Executions save money.
- FACT: The death penalty is the most expensive part of our criminal justice system. Studies across the nation have found that death penalty cases cost up to ten times more than non-death penalty cases. Without the death penalty, these resources could be used to help survivors, support mental health initiatives, and promote new initiatives to keep communities safe.
- MYTH: We only sentence people to death when we are 100% certain they committed the crime.
- FACT: Since 1973, more than 185 death row inmates have been exonerated of all charges and released. Eleven of those were in Ohio, which means for every five executions, one person has been exonerated in our state. Some of the factors leading to wrongful convictions include (1) eyewitness mistake; (2) inadequate representation; (3) perjury by witnesses; (4) prosecutorial misconduct; or (5) jurors who did not understand the process.
Next Steps & Invitations
Now that you’ve reflected on the facts and myths connected with this part of our legal system, we invite you to prayerfully consider what next steps you might take to “do justice” for this cause:
- Join us in prayer during your own personal prayer time that our state would commit to doing justice without use of the death penalty.
- Register here for the 24-hour, in-person Prayer Vigil taking place at the Ohio Statehouse on October 9-10, 2023
- Consider using this template to write a letter to Ohio Lawmakers encouraging them to support this cause through their work. You can click here to fill out a form that will generate the letter and send it to lawmakers for you.
- If you have questions about how this invitation regarding abolishing the death penalty intersects with your own beliefs about abortion rights, it may be helpful to read Pastor Rich’s Pastoral Response to the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
- Visit https://nodeathpenaltyoh.com/faithweek2023/ to learn more and to find more ways to get involved.
A Word of Care
If this topic is emotionally-charged for you, please know that is a normal response. It is a deeply emotional and spiritual task to wrestle with what it means to do justice when the stakes are “life or death.”
Consider taking some space to express the full range of your emotions to the Lord in prayer. It may also be helpful to invite trusted friends, members of your Sanctuary Group, a member of our pastoral team (Pastor Rich or Pastor Micah), or family members into a conversation to help you clarify your thoughts about this topic.
Continually refining the “do Justice” part of our faith can be hard but good work. But we thank God we’ve been empowered by the Holy Spirit and blessed with community so that we never have to do that work alone.