Ohio judge’s death sentence rejection highlights rare trend

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A decision by a Cleveland judge to overrule a jury’s death sentence recommendation for a triple killer highlights how rare such judicial decisions are.

Research by The Associated Press found just eight additional examples of judicial overrides since Ohio’s current death penalty law took effect in 1981.

That’s compared to more than 320 death sentences handed down during the same time.

Ohio State law professor and sentencing expert Douglas Berman says overriding death sentences can be politically risky for judges, who are elected in Ohio and many other states.

Berman also says many cases with strong evidence against capital punishment are resolved before reaching a jury.

Judge Joan Synenberg cited defendant Douglas Shine Jr.’s childhood abuse as a child in sentencing him to life without parole on Dec. 19.