Criminal Justice

Death Row Exonerees Fight to Stop Executions

Zoë Tersche
Aug 10, 2017

One day after Independence Day this summer, former death row inmate Joe D’Ambrosio celebrated his freedom by starting a Change.org petition to stop 27 executions in Ohio.

D’Ambrosio was exonerated from Ohio’s death row when he was 50. He was convicted for a murder he didn’t commit when he was 26. In his petition, he states that he and his co-petition starters “are some of the nine men exonerated from Ohio’s death row, proving that innocent people have been sentenced to death in our state.”

Joe D’Ambrosio started a petition on Change.org to halt 27 executions scheduled in Ohio. D’Ambrosio was exonerated from death row in 2012.

The state of Ohio has scheduled 27 executions between 2017 and 2020, the first of which took place just weeks ago; Ronald R. Phillips’s execution on July 26th marked the first since the botched execution of Dennis McGuire in 2014. The drug combination used to kill McGuire induced a choking sensation as a result of restricted breathing. After McGuire’s 25-minute-long execution, the ordeal was called, a “failed, agonizing experiment,” by his defense attorney. Similar side effects to these lethal injection drugs were reported weeks earlier during an execution that took place in Oklahoma.

The recurrence of botched executions is among the reasons why D’Ambrosio is petitioning Ohio Governor John Kasich to call off the executions scheduled to take place over the next three years.

Yet Ohio is moving forward with their most intensive execution schedule to date – even though over 7,000 people are calling on Governor Kasich to call it off. Many of those have spoken out against the death penalty, including James, who wrote, “We have so many people in jail that have later been found innocent. How can you support a system that has proven to be unjust?”

In Missouri, an execution is set to take place in less than two weeks that raises similar concerns. Marcellus Williams has been on death row since 1998, despite no DNA evidence linking him to the crime he was convicted for committing. In fact, the sole grounds for his conviction two decades ago were the testimonies of two individuals. Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty started a petition to save Marcellus on Change.org shortly after D’Ambrosio launched his in July.

Kwame Ajamu (pictured in blue) is one of the death row exonerees petitioning Ohio to halt 27 scheduled executions.

Nearly 200,000 people have spoken out against the death penalty and individual executions on Change.org, resulting in one petition making victory in April when Governor McAuliffe of Virginia commuted the death sentence of Ivan Teleguz. As Teleguz was spared in Virginia, roughly 50,000 people were rallying to prevent the execution of eight men in Arkansas. Governor Asa Hutchinson didn’t listen even as community and faith leaders spoke out against the eight executions scheduled to take place in a mere ten day period, but the courts did – resulting in four of the eight executions being stayed.

Right now, 26 men on Ohio’s death row and Marcellus Williams in Missouri need you to take action to help prevent their executions. You can do so by signing the petitions to save them and by sharing the petitions on social media and elsewhere.

Looking for even more ways to help? Consider joining our Criminal Justice program to support petitions like these seeking to right wrongful convictions and work toward meaningful criminal justice reform.