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Convicted Killer Argues Ohio Death Penalty Law Is Unconstitutional

Ohio Supreme Court Gavel statue
Creative Commons

Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida’s capital punishment sentencing law in 2016, a convicted killer is now arguing Ohio’s death penalty law is unconstitutional. Maurice Mason claims the ruling that a jury must sentence a defendant to death makes Ohio’s two-part sentencing process illegal.

Mason was convicted of raping and killing Robin Dennis in Marion in 1993. His attorney, Kort Gatterdam, told the Ohio Supreme Court that because juries recommend death sentences but judges then review and impose them, that makes Ohio’s law unconstitutional.

“It’s not simply saying that there can be no death penalty in Ohio,” Gatterdam says. “It’s saying that the jury has to make the decision, and there has to be a rewrite of the statute.”

But Marion County assistant prosecutor Kevin Collins said the judge reviews the jury’s recommendation and can reject it but can’t increase it, which he says protects the offender.

“It’s just, it’s proper, and it is constitutional,” Collins says.

Mason’s death sentence was overturned by a federal court – he’s now challenging a new sentencing hearing.