Gary Otte Writes Essay on Drug Addiction Days Before Scheduled Execution in Ohio


Convicted killer Gary Otte is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday. The state of Ohio resumed its death penalty protocol in July with the execution of Ronald Phillips, following a three-year hiatus riddled with legal controversy. Beyond Otte, there are more than two dozen state inmates scheduled to die in the next several years.

But as The Fair Punishment Project at Harvard Law School reported recently, Otte and many of those other inmates brought a history of abuse and mental impairment to their time on Death Row. Otte, who committed his two murders at age 20, began using drugs and drinking alcohol at 10. He attempted suicide at 14.

With that backdrop in mind, Otte penned an essay on drug addiction in his final days. Splinter ran the letter, which we've embedded below as well.

The essay came as a response to Hamilton Nolan's request for his "Letters from Death Row" series. "You wrote to me a while back," Otte wrote in his letter to Nolan. "I recently put together a few words about overcoming our growing drug epidemic. You are welcome to share it. It is a first draft and deserves 200+ pages more, but it is worth the look."

It's a worthwhile perspective on the growing opiate overdose crisis in the U.S. Otte speaks directly to the social stigma that continues to surround drug addiction and the demonization of addicts.

"Hiding people in prisons doesn't make our problems go away," he writes.






We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.