Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer authored that state’s death penalty law when he served in the state senate 30 years ago. After spending three decades deciding death penalty appeals, however, Pfeifer’s views have changed dramatically:
“I have concluded that the death sentence makes no sense to me at this point when you can have life without the possibility of parole,” Pfeifer said in his most recent public comments, testifying in December in favor a bill to abolish Ohio’s law. “I don’t see what society gains from that.” . . .
In January 2011, Pfeifer made his strongest statements to date, calling on Gov. John Kasich to empty death row.
Pfeifer says he’s required as a judge to take positions to make laws better, hence his current stand. He’s also required to rule according to the law and the Constitution, which he says he does. Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor says she’s comfortable Pfeifer is following the law and not showing bias.
The law that Pfeifer originally sponsored in 1981 was enacted after the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty nationwide, and then later allowed it provided states comply with certain procedures.