Thursday, November 22, 2001

Electric chair banned in Ohio

Injection becomes sole form of execution

By Kate Macek
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Gov. Bob Taft signed a bill Wednesday banning use of the electric chair, leaving injection as the sole method of execution in the state.

        The change will affect death row inmate John W. Byrd. He was convicted of killing Colerain Township convenience-store clerk Monte Tewksbury in 1983 and chose the electric chair to protest the cruelty of the death penalty.

        Reginald Wilkinson, director of the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, said he is glad the law was changed. He said he was worried about possible trauma to his staff, their inexperience with electrocution and the age of Ohio's electric chair.

        “In modern society, we shouldn't have to depend on technology that's over 100 years old,” he said.

        Nicknamed “Old Sparky,” Ohio's electric chair has not been used since 1963. No one working in the state prison system has taken part in an electrocution.

        Mr. Byrd's Sept. 12 execution was indefinitely postponed by the U.S Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati so a federal court in Dayton could hear testimony on Mr. Byrd's claim of innocence.

        Ohio joins 20 other states that offer injection as the only form of execution. Twelve states have outlawed electrocutions over the past two decades, switching exclusively to injection.

        Only two states — Alabama and Nebraska — use electrocution as their only method for carrying out the death penalty.

        Two men have been executed in Ohio in the past two years — Wilford Berry at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in 1999, and Jay D. Scott in Lucasville in June. Both chose injection.


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