Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dayton Ohio-area Judge Removes Self From Capital Case Because the Death Penalty is Morally Indefensible

The Dayton Daily News is reporting that Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge AJ Wagner (pic) removed himself from the capital case of Cody Henderson because of his conviction as a practicing Roman Catholic that the death penalty is morally repugnant.  The folllowing is from Lou Greico's article:

"In his recusal, Wagner cited both his opinion that capital punishment is unconstitutional as well as his spiritual beliefs as a Catholic.  'I adhere to a belief that an individual’s temporal life begins at conception and ends when we are reclaimed by God,' Wagner wrote. 'It is not for man to determine that end time, but for the creator. God was very clear about this when he gave the law [the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, celebrating this event is today] to Moses, 'Thou shall not kill.’
Wagner noted that the American Law Institute, which developed the model penal code used across the country in death penalty statutes, including Ohio, withdrew that code in October. The original version was written in 1962, and the model code was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court as a way to 'avoid the unconstitutional, unfettered discretion found in the implementation of capital punishment,' Wagner wrote.

Now, the ALI, a group of lawyers, judges and legal scholars, say they cannot devise a standard that would remove the arbitrary nature of capital punishment. 'Further, believing it impossible, they have given up on even finding a standard that will work.'

Wagner noted other concerns, including that, as of 2008, 62 percent of death row inmates had killed a white victim, while only 32 percent had killed a black person. He also wrote that, since 1973, 139 defendants nationwide have been released from death row after evidence showed they were actually innocent. Five of those were in Ohio, and another seven Ohio inmates were removed from death row after they were found to be mentally retarded, Wagner wrote."
Judge Wagner sounds like he should be a contributing writer at Bad Lawyer.  At the link you can see Judge Wagner's official profile from the Montgomery Common Pleas Court website.


  1. It is nice to see an opponent of abortion who is also an opponent of the death penalty. So often one doesn't seem to necessitate the other, which I take to be a pretty indefensible contradiction--a contradiction that turns on judging some lives "innocent" and others "guilty." If life is a value in and of itself, it cannot then be subjected to judgment by human beings whose vision of the "truth" is limited. Who, as the book says, can only see "through a glass, darkly."

  2. I need to write about something that I'm reading about the task of judgment. Your insightful comment brings it to mind.

  3. Gayle


    the pope