State Reps. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) and Shane Wilkin (R-Piketon) announced the House passage of House Bill 85 today, which creates a methodology for Ohio counties to petition the State for additional funding in capital cases which exceed a threshold that might otherwise place the county in financial distress, if not fiscal ruin.
Described by Rep. Rogers and Rep. Wilkin as one of Ohio’s largest homicide investigations, the costs associated with prosecuting the recent capital crimes in Pike County could exceed $5 million. Pike County, with a annual budget of less than $10 million, is nevertheless mandated to enforce Ohio law, pursue justice on behalf of the State, and hold those responsible to account.
“Ohio is charged with a great responsibility – to seek justice, to protect the rights of its citizens, and protect our communities, all the while ensuring that those who commit horrendous acts of violence, including murder, are held accountable,” Rogers said.
“With such great responsibility comes tremendous cost, and the financial demands of discharging these duties may unfortunately become too large a burden for some,” added Roger. “In the case of Pike County and its 28,000 residents, the prosecution of multiple defendants charged with the recent murders of 8 members of the Rhoden family and one son’s fiancé has placed a tremendous financial burden on the county’s shoulders that has become difficult to bear alone.”
While HB 85 requests a $4 million appropriation from the General Revenue Fund to aid Pike County in discharging its duties, Rep. Rogers explained that HB 85’s sole intent is to create a framework within the law that would provide Ohio’s counties with a means to petition the State for financial assistance when the costs of prosecuting and defending cases involve an offense that includes a capital specification, multiple defendants or victims.
The ability to petition the State for this assistance would occur when the cost to prosecute these types of cases exceeds a threshold amounting to five percent of the county’s general fund appropriations.
Rep. Wilkin stated, “Justice cannot be reserved for only the wealthy or those counties in a strong financial position. This legislation – as much as I hope it is never needed again – establishes a procedure for counties to request state assistance if they are faced with such a tragedy.”
The bill passed with a bipartisan supermajority of 93-2 in the Ohio House and will now be considered in the Ohio Senate.