COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Gov. John Kasich used his executive clemency power during his first term far less frequently than any other Ohio governor in the past three decades, records show.
Kasich, a Republican, granted 66 of 1,521 requests, or about 4.4 percent of the non-death-penalty cases he received and acted upon from 2011 to 2014, according to records obtained by The (Columbus) Dispatch (http://bit.ly/18HbEIl ) under a public-records request.
That makes him the most conservative with clemency of any Ohio governor going back to the 1980s, when the state began tracking gubernatorial clemency, the newspaper said.
Kasich commuted the death sentences of five killers during his first term, but allowed 12 to be executed. He recently used his executive authority to push the state’s entire execution schedule into 2016 to allow the Ohio prisons agency to obtain new drugs for lethal injection.
Clemency is a power unique to governors, broad but defined by law. In Ohio, the governor can halt or postpone executions, commute or reduce a sentence so that a prisoner can be freed now or in the future, and grant pardons, erasing a past criminal record.
Ohio governors have used clemency in different ways over the past three decades reflecting personal ideological persuasions.
Former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, approved 20 percent of 1,615 clemency requests he handled between 2007 and 2011. Most involved low-level, nonviolent offenses, but he did commute five death-penalty sentences to life without parole.
No Ohio governor in modern history has commuted a death sentence and set a prisoner free.
Republican governors George V. Voinovich (1991-98) and Bob Taft (1999-2007) each approved less than 10 percent of the clemency requests they received. Gov. James A. Rhodes, a Republican, approved 17.5 percent of clemencies in 1982, his last year in office.
Democrat Richard F. Celeste, governor from 1983 to 1991, commuted the death sentences of eight killers on Death Row in his next to last day in office. He also granted clemency to 25 female prisoners, reasoning they were victims of “battered-woman syndrome” and deserved mercy.
Celeste’s actions caused an uproar and spurred legal challenges. The General Assembly changed the law to require governors to have a recommendation from the Ohio Parole Board before making any clemency decision. The governor doesn’t have to follow the board’s recommendation.
Kasich differed with the board in 23 cases last year, each time rejecting clemency for inmates who had been favorably recommended.
(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)