2018-04-11 / Front Page

Worley More Likely To Die of Natural Causes Than From Death Penalty

by David Pugh
Buckeye Staff Writer

If Jeffrey Robinson, Fulton County Common Pleas Court judge, sentences James Worley, 58, rural Delta, to death, it’s more likely he’ll die of natural causes in prison.

And it will be more expensive than sentencing him to life without parole.

Kevin Werner, director of Ohioans to Stop Executions, said he anticipates that anyone sentenced to death in the last five years will never be executed.

“It’s far more likely that the death penalty in Ohio and the country will end,” he said.

Death penalty cases typically go through a long and complex appeals process, sometimes delaying execution by decades.

“Certainly over 20 years. It’s very unusual to see a case that moves through the system faster than that,” Werner said.

Worley would be 78 after 20 years of appeals.

Cost

Many argue the state is financially better off executing murderers rather than keeping them in prison for the rest of their lives.

But that’s not the case, Werner said.

“It’s definitely counterintuitive, but it’s far less expensive for someone to serve a life-without-parole (sentence) than it is to have a death sentence,” he said.

If Worley is sentenced to death, “that’s going to wind up costing Fulton County taxpayers, and then the taxpayers more generally in the state of Ohio, about $3 million,” Werner said.

“Whereas a life-without-parole case, even when you add the cost of incarceration for 60 years, it’s a little bit under $1 million,” Werner said.

“It’s a factor of millions more to have somebody on death row than it is to sentence them to life without parole.”

Again And Again

Another factor is the appeals process.

“Let’s say James Worley is sentenced to death,” Werner said.

“About every two years, there’s going to be some proceeding in the appeals process, so the victim’s family members are going to be hauled back into court every 18 months to two years for the next 20 years.

“Now maybe they don’t go all the time, but the point is, where there is news and where there is media attention on the case, what it does is cause them (family members) to have to relive that trial and to relive the murder of their daughter, so it just perpetuates this trauma over the course of decades,” he said.

Conversely, when a life-without-parole sentence is handed down, “That’s it. It’s over.

“That offender goes off to serve his or her sentence very anonymously, and the attention and the fanfare that are placed on the offender goes away. That’s it. There’s nothing more.

“I think that’s what’s in the best, long-term interest of the family, that’s trying to move forward and trying to get their lives back together.”

Failed Cocktail

Ohio has had problems putting people to death with lethal injection.

In the past, state officials used a three-drug “cocktail” to execute someone.

The first drug left a person “insensate,” or unconscious to the point of having no sensations. The second paralyzed the person, and the third stopped the heart.

But drug manufacturers stopped selling the drugs to states for the purpose of executions.

Ohio and other states came up with new ingredients for the cocktail.

In January 2014, Dennis McGuire, an Ohio inmate, was put to death with a new formula of chemicals, but there were problems.

Press reports say McGuire gasped for breath and struggled against his restraints. It took 26 minutes for him to die.

Ohio hasn’t executed anyone since.

State officials have changed some of the drugs in the cocktail, but the one drug death-penalty critics say is the problem, remains the same.

That raises the questions of violating the US and Ohio constitutions, Werner said.

The Ohio constitution says the death penalty must be quick and painless.

“What Ohio is using is not quick, as we’ve seen, and it’s also not painless,” Werner said.

The Ohio Office of the Public Defender was contacted for this article. Laura Austen, deputy director of the Public Defender Office Division Of Policy And Outreach, said the office would not comment until after sentencing.

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