Group asks Governor Kasich to stop scheduled executions

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Faith leaders, a former Ohio prison warden and a man sentenced to death row and others, delivered petitions with 27,000 signatures to Governor John Kasich’s Office urging him to stop scheduled executions.

It has been three and a half years since Ohio’s last troubled-execution.

NBC4 spoke with the group before they delivered the petitions.

Kwame Ajamu spent three decades in prison including time on death row. He said he is one of nine Ohio death row inmates acquitted of their crimes.

Ajamu said he was only 17-years-old when he was wrongly convicted of murder, spending three years on death row from 1975 to 1978 and more than 30 years in all behind bars.

“It was beyond frightening, I was terrorized every day,” I would hear the screams up and down the range of grown men who were afraid when the doors hit they were coming to get them,” Ajamu said.

He was exonerated and set free, but worries other innocent people could be executed.

“We have a judicial system set up where we call the judicial system where we use courts, but we get it wrong. And I along with 158 other people are living proof that gets wrong,” said Ajamu.

He, Joe D’Ambrosio, Derrick Jamison, Dale Johnston and Wiley Bridgeman all exonerees and members of Witness to Innocence, delivered a letter to Kasich’s office asking him to halt state executions.

Along with other letters from several different groups, former prison officials, religious leaders and families of murdered loved ones carried boxes of petition signatures from the statehouse to Kasich office, with the goal of halting the scheduled executions.

“We are not asking the state to turn its back on people who commit serious crimes. We are in favor of hard-life sentences for people who commit despicable crimes, but the death penalty eliminates the possibility we got it wrong,” said Pastor Carl Ruby with the Central Christian Church.

Melinda Elkins Dawson and LaShawn Ajamu, Kwame’s wife, Co-chair the Ohioans Murder Victims Families Project. A group advocating for families with murdered loved ones.

“It may surprise some people to know that a survivor of a horrific crime is part of the effort to stop execution,” Elkins Dawson said. Her mother was murdered and her co-chair LaShawn Ajamu’s brother was also killed.

Elkins Dawson’s husband was convicted of the murder and sent to prison and faced the death penalty until he was also acquitted.

The Governor’s Press Secretary Jon Keeling said only, “we appreciate and respect these individuals sharing their thoughts with the governor.”

The state has 27 executions scheduled, the first is in less than two weeks.

 

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