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March 9, 2010

"State doesn't let condemned man kill himself"

The title of this post is the headline of this article from the Columbus Dispatch, which updates how the state of Ohio is dealing with a condemned murderers suicide attempt just before his scheduled execution:

Inmate Lawrence Reynolds' decision to attempt death on his terms before the state could execute him left Ohio officials with a dilemma. Save him or let him die?

Reynolds, 43, who was to be lethally injected at 10 a.m. today, got a one-week reprieve yesterday as he regained consciousness in a Youngstown hospital after an apparent suicide attempt late Sunday. The Akron man now has until next Tuesday to recover from the overdose before the state injects him with a dose of thiopental sodium, a powerful anesthetic that will most likely kill him within minutes.

The state will pay for Reynolds' medical treatment until he can be returned to Death Row at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, where he was housed, or to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville, where executions take place.

Reynolds was convicted and sentenced to death for the Jan. 11, 1994, murder of Loretta Foster, 64, his neighbor in Akron. Reynolds tried to rape the woman before strangling her and beating her with a tent pole. He later took friends back to the house to see her body.

Many Dispatch.com readers who commented on the story yesterday seemed to agree with this reaction: "We were gonna kill him anyways, why not just let him ... die from the overdose?"

Julie Walburn, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said the state has two legal obligations. "We have a constitutional duty to provide health care for this inmate until the execution commences. And we are legally responsible to carry out executions under the law. We will meet both our legal obligations."

Walburn said a full investigation is being conducted into how Reynolds, while on Death Row at the state's maximum-security prison, obtained drugs sufficient to cause an overdose.

March 9, 2010 at 08:58 AM | Permalink


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What would REALLY suck is if he turned into a vegetable (Shiavo style) and his heirs wanted him alive so the state has to pay a million bucks a year for 20 to 30 years to keep him alive instead of executing him. Though that still might be cheaper than the initial cost of appeals for a death row inmate.

Posted by: . | Mar 9, 2010 9:13:51 AM

this is all so macabre.

Ten years ago I had a client on death row who suffered a brain aneuryism and was on life support. The family had to decide whether to tell the doctor to remove the life support so he would die, or try to revive him so the state could kill him.


Posted by: bruce cunningham | Mar 9, 2010 10:09:00 AM

It's not that we just want you dead...we want to kill you.

Posted by: Talitha | Mar 9, 2010 10:37:03 AM

In both cases they die in prison the differences are in one case they die at a specified time in view of official witnesses and in the other case the time is unspecified time with no official witnesses. A symbolic difference IMHO.

Posted by: John Neff | Mar 9, 2010 12:11:11 PM

I believe the greater difference is that "The Citizens" kill him rather than the defendant himself (or God, for those who believe). This whole story is straight out of Monty Python.

Posted by: David Hemingway | Mar 9, 2010 12:21:29 PM

me i figure DEAD is DEAD when and how is irrelevent in a case like this.

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 9, 2010 3:07:43 PM

This silly scenario is a quandary only to the dumbass lawyer. All normal people would have him executed where he lays.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 9, 2010 8:45:42 PM

The legal and moral obligations are clear.

The state has the same duties and responsibilities with a death row inmate that it has with all other inmates, until AFTER death.

I often see remarks as to how silly it is that sterilized needles and alcohol swabs are used during the lethal execution procedures. As stays of execution are common and could occur while an inmate was on the gurney, the reasons are clear why such safety precausions are taken, then, just as any other times prior to execution.

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Mar 10, 2010 8:19:16 AM

With deepest respect Doug (and I absolutely hope this post is not perceived as an instance of "nyah, nyah" or some such), you had asked me in another case how a person on death row would be able to get sufficient intravenous drugs in order to make lethal injection so difficult as to raise a colorable 1983 claim (due to the difficulty of finding a good vein to start an IV). I suggest it is not impossible. Prisoners have 24 hours, seven days a week to observe the habits and activities of the shifting cast of characters who mind them.

Posted by: Ed Unneland | Mar 11, 2010 11:58:41 AM

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