COLUMBUS - Gov. Ted Strickland said yesterday that anyone trying to read more into his recent decision to delay three executions will find nothing more than a need for more time for his office to thoroughly review each case.
"If I were to decide that I was going to have a moratorium on executions, I would just say so," he said. "People are reading between the lines, and there's nothing written there."
Mr. Strickland delayed for at least two months the first three executions scheduled during the first few weeks of his administration, including one originally set for January and two scheduled for this month. The executions have been delayed until March, April, and May.
"I wasn't going to be put in a position where I was going to be making a hasty decision about a matter like this," he said. "Now that I'm in office, now that we've got our staff in place, as additional executions are scheduled, we will have time to do reasonable considerations."
The governor's action nearly two weeks ago had both death-row supporters and opponents wondering aloud whether Ohio's first Democratic governor in 16 years was preparing to issue a moratorium on executions as has been done in some other states, most recently Florida.
Mr. Strickland, an ordained minister, has said he supports the death penalty, but he has also often pointed to a case currently in federal court in which Ohio's lethal injection procedures are being challenged as unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.
Seven inmates, including Toledo native John Spirko in a Van Wert County case, are death-row plaintiffs in that lawsuit. Others have sought to join the case.
"You know, I'm glad there is discussion of this issue ... It's an important issue," Mr. Strickland said. "If Ohioans want to discuss it, they ought to discuss it."
Mr. Strickland delayed the executions of Kenneth Biros, convicted in a 1991 Trumbull County murder; James L. Filiaggi, convicted in the 1994 shooting of his ex-wife in Lorain County, and Christopher J. Newton, convicted in the 2001 strangling of his prison cell mate.
The Ohio Parole Board has recommended that the governor not grant clemency to Biros. Its recommendation on Filiaggi is due today. Newton has dropped all appeals and had not asked for the governor to intervene.
The governor made his comments following a brief speech before the Ohio Tax Conference, a meeting of business executives, accountants, and tax attorneys that the state touts as the largest of its kind in the nation.
Mr. Strickland reiterated his message that his first two-year budget proposal, due in mid-March, will be tight and that he has no intention of raising taxes or fees. He also plans to wait for results of the state's tax reform enacted two years, which included a major shift in the how the state taxes businesses, before recommending any changes.
Despite the changes, Ohio's economy remains sluggish, but Mr. Strickland said there are early signs that the tax plan may be helping the manufacturing sector.
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