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Ohio justices, lawyer task force to study death penalty

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) – Ohio’s top court and state bar association will form a joint task force to review the administration of the state’s death penalty, the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court said on Thursday.

The task force will not address whether Ohio should or should not have a death penalty, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said in a speech at a two-day conference for state judges.

In July, a federal judge issued a stay of execution for one Ohio inmate, calling the state’s application of death penalty practices haphazard.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, who had bcommuted another death row inmate’s sentence to life in June, delayed another execution as a result of the judge’s ruling.

The task force is intended to “ensure that Ohio’s death penalty is administered in the most fair, efficient, and judicious manner possible,” O’Connor said in her address.

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Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said it was “commendable” that Ohio was reviewing the process for fairness and accuracy.

Dieter called it good that the state wanted to ensure that the death penalty would be fairly applied statewide and that there was no danger of an innocent person being executed.

According to statistics from the center, Ohio has executed four men in 2011. More than 30 people have been executed in the United States so far this year.

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O’Connor said the task force would have about 20 members and would look at current death penalty laws in Ohio and other states, the statistics on its application and the costs, O’Conner said.

The task force will be diverse, including people with expertise and experience defending, prosecuting and judging death penalty cases as well as researchers, she said.

“Convening persons with broad experience on this subject will produce a fair, impartial, and balanced analysis,” said O’Connor, who became chief justice nine months ago.

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(Reporting by Jim Leckrone; Editing by David Bailey)

Mochila insert follows.

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