Biography of Joseph T. Deters

Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph T. Deters is one of Ohio's most vocal advocates for aggressive prosecution of violent criminals.

Joseph Deters began his career in public service in 1982 as an Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor, where he learned the impact that violent crime has on families and neighborhoods.  As an assistant prosecutor, he dedicated his life to serving and helping our communities.

After a notable tenure as a tough assistant prosecutor, he was elected to the position of Hamilton County Clerk of Courts in 1988.  While serving as Clerk, Mr. Deters developed his skills as a manager of a large office (350 employees) and gained the respect of other officeholders and the community.

In 1992, Mr. Deters returned to the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office when he was appointed, and later that year elected, as Prosecuting Attorney of Hamilton County.

Joe Deters is now Hamilton County’s longest serving Prosecuting Attorney (1992-1999 and 2005-present).  He is an experienced criminal and civil attorney who is recognized as one of the toughest and most innovative prosecutors in the nation.  Mr. Deters manages an office of over 170 employees (both Criminal and Civil divisions), which includes assistant prosecutors and support staff.  Mr. Deters’ office prosecutes all felony offenses (approximately 10,000 cases per year) and juvenile criminal offenses committed in the county.  The office also handles all misdemeanor crimes in the county (approximately 40,000 cases per year) excluding offenses committed in the City of Cincinnati.

Mr. Deters serves as Chief Legal Counsel for all county officials, county agencies, townships and various boards.  He and his assistant prosecutors appear in all Ohio state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court.

As Hamilton County Prosecutor, Mr. Deters was the driving force behind the following important changes in state law to better protect Ohio citizens:

  • Reduction in time and money to complete capital litigation
  • Creation of a statewide DNA database
  • Repeal of the 15 year cap on maximum prison terms
  • Permit certain juveniles to be incarcerated until age 21
  • Allow judges to consider a defendant’s threat to the community when setting bail
  • Made the purposeful murder of a child under the age of 13 a death penalty eligible case
  • Led the passage of the Daly Bill, which recognizes an unborn child as a person under Ohio’s Criminal Code.

In January of 1999, Joe Deters was elected and sworn in as Ohio’s 44th Treasurer.

As Treasurer of the State of Ohio from 1999 through 2004, he was responsible for the investment and custody of nearly 9 billion dollars in the state treasury.  He also managed the 8 billion dollar State Treasury Asset Reserve of Ohio (STAROHIO).  Further, he was the custodian of 160 billion dollars of investments made by the five state pension funds (PERS, STRS, SERS, PFDPF, and HPRS).

As Treasurer, Mr. Deters wrote and implemented the first comprehensive State of Ohio Treasury Investment Policy, State of Ohio Treasury Securities Lending Policy, State of Ohio Treasury Variable Rate Debt and Interest Swap Guidelines, and State Treasury Asset Reserve (STAROHIO) investment policy guidelines.  As a result of the implementation of these risk management policies, no public funds were lost during his tenure.  Simultaneously, the Ohio Treasury enjoyed its highest single year in investment returns.

During Joe’s time as Treasurer, the office received 23 national awards for innovation and technology.  Included in these awards was one for BidOhio, the nation’s first state-based auction for interim funds.  Banks throughout Ohio now compete in a “live” monthly internet auction of treasury funds based upon the bank’s willingness to pay greater rates of return.

In the fall of 2004, Joe Deters became a write-in candidate for his former position, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney.  He was elected on November 2, 2004, with nearly 60% of the vote.

Joe is a lifelong Cincinnatian and 1975 graduate of St. Xavier High School.  In 1979, Joe graduated from the University of Cincinnati, and then the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1982.  Joe is a member of the Cincinnati Bar Association, the Ohio State Bar Association, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the National District Attorneys Association, and the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty.  He currently serves on the St. Joseph’s Cemetery Board of Trustees, and has previously served on the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees, the Ohio Organized Crime Commission, and the Southern Ohio Leukemia Foundation.

In 1993, Mr. Deters’ office was selected to lead the prison riot prosecutions resulting from Ohio’s Lucasville riot.  It was the most successful prison riot prosecution in the nation’s history, with 47 out of 50 defendants convicted and five sent to death row.

Mr. Deters tries many major cases himself and as Hamilton County Prosecutor has never lost a case.  Four of these cases involved serial killers:

  • State vs. Harvey (1987) – Harvey killed 23 people at a county hospital
  • State vs. Fauntenberry (1992) – Fauntenberry killed three people who were hitchhiking cross country
  • State vs. Franklin (1998) – Joseph Paul Franklin, an avowed racist, killed at least a dozen people, including two young African American boys who he shot to death in Cincinnati in 1980
  • State vs. Kirkland (2010) – Kirkland raped and murdered at least five women in the Cincinnati area.

Most recently, Joe re-tried State vs. Johnson, a case in which he was the original lead prosecutor in 1998.  Rayshawn Johnson was convicted of brutally murdering a young woman in her home and sentenced to death.  In 2011, the case was returned by the appellate court for retrial of the mitigation portion.  Mr. Deters was again successful in getting the jury to recommend the death sentence for Rayshawn Johnson.  Johnson is currently on death row in Ohio.