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May 24, 2007

Another messy execution in Ohio

As detailed in this AP report, Ohio once again had trouble with a lethal injection execution today.  Here are basic details and reactions:

A man executed Thursday for killing a cellmate chatted and laughed with prison staff as they struggled to find veins in his arm to deliver the deadly chemicals, taking so long that at one point he was given a bathroom break. 

Christopher Newton, who had insisted on the death penalty as punishment for choking and beating the cellmate after arguing over a chess game, died at 11:53 a.m., nearly two hours after the scheduled start of his execution.  The execution team stuck him at least 10 times with needles to get in place the shunts where chemicals are injected.... 

Prison officials said the difficulty prison staff had finding Newton's veins resulted from the girth of the 265-pound, 6-foot inmate. Newton told a public defender it was hard for blood to be taken from his veins because of his weight.  Fifty-three minutes into the process, prisons spokeswoman Andrea Dean flashed a note to reporters: "We have told the team to take their time. His size is creating a problem."

Gov. Ted Strickland said every precaution was taken to make sure Newton was treated respectfully and was not in pain.  "The procedure worked as it was intended to work," Strickland said.  "If someone is against the death penalty then I can understand why they would want me to have a moratorium on the death penalty, but I think what happened today is not any supporting justification for that."

Of course, Ohio Death Penalty Information is THE place to go for copious coverage of this story, and ODPI has spotted this ACLU press release calling for an immediate halt to executions in Ohio as a result of today's troubles.

UPDATE: ODPI has all the morning press coverage of the Newton execution collected here.

May 24, 2007 at 08:06 PM | Permalink


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I couldn't disagree more. He killed someone. And we are supposed to show him
mercy? I don't think so.

And I don't care if it's painful for him or not.

Posted by: William Jockusch | May 24, 2007 8:50:35 PM

I couldn't disagree more. He killed someone. And we are supposed to show him
mercy? I don't think so.

And I don't care if it's painful for him or not.

Posted by: William Jockusch | May 24, 2007 8:50:38 PM

I'm a student...and I'm appalled by the method of execution, the casual attitude of the prison staff, and their clumsiness.

Whatever the crime he was a human being. If such a casual attitude is permissible against criminals then it could be justified in society against anyone.

Corrupt politicians, cheating businessmen, wife beaters, prostitutes, racist policemen, school bullies...?

Posted by: Artorios | May 24, 2007 9:18:05 PM

I don't think this was casual at all. They didn't rush the job--they got it right. I cannot see what all the fuss is about--oh wait, Ohio did things wrong when the rushed the needle insertion, and now they do things wrong when they take the time to make sure the needles are properly inserted. This isn't about ensuring that prisoners are executed without the agony of suffocation and chemical burning, but rather it is a cynical attempt to end executions altogether.

The ACLU of Ohio's press release is a joke. This was not torture. This was getting it right.

Posted by: federalist | May 24, 2007 9:57:31 PM

Artorios has no idea what he is talking about. As somebody with first-hand knowledge of how the prison staff trains for and approaches executions, I can say that your comment is completely baseless. And as somebody who also knows the details of what Newton did to his victim both during and well before the murder, whatever discomfort Newton felt from the difficulty of finding a vein pales in comparison to the pain he inflicted.

Posted by: anon | May 24, 2007 10:31:48 PM

I have one solution for the "clumsiness"--let's get a lot more of these Ohio killers to the gurney so the team will have lots of practice.

Posted by: federalist | May 24, 2007 10:59:42 PM

Anon, I think that there are a couple of problems with your argument. First of all, Artorios doesn’t really make too many factual assertions. He claims that the prison staff has a “casual” attitude. You claim that they take their job seriously. This is really quite a subjective difference. Artorios can point to the fact that they did not do their job on schedule to show that they have a lack of training. You can point to some training that they had. Neither really resolves your claim. Moreover, the fact that you rely on “first-hand knowledge” but don’t provide any reason why we should believe you (e.g. were you a lawyer for a state that has a practice of killing people according to law, and you supervised the state employees charged with killing these people), I don’t think that you comment was too enlightening.

The reason why I question your credibility is that all prison guards and such claim to take their job seriously. Yet, every week, it seems, some tale of woe from a prison (such as prison guards running prostitution rings, or forcing prisoners to masturbate) emerges.

A number of people have made reference to the dead guy’s prior behavior. This is fairly common in death penalty debates, but there are a number of problems with it. Assuming, arguendo, that the practice of killing by the state (i.e. with state employees) is constitutional, many of you seem to want different deathy penalties for different kinds of condemned people. If so, I wish that you folks would come out and say it. But you don’t. You want to cut juries and judges out of the equation. Instead, you want prison staff to make ad hoc judgments on how much someone can suffer based on media accounts of the person’s crimes. You don’t want people to read the trial record before deciding how much pain to inflict, or how careless in administering the death potions to be. So, I ask all of you folks that want MORE suffering for some people to explain, exactly how the proper amount of suffering is to be determined, and why you think that juries are not capable of making this determination.

Federalist, Can you please just say what percentage of Ohioans should be in jail (I was thinking 35%, because a lot of them are uneducated), and how many people the state should kill per year. Otherwise you are just saying “it isn’t enough” all the time. This would make budgetary planning much easier.

Posted by: S.cotus | May 25, 2007 6:42:36 AM

Lawyers who use the word "arguendo" should be banished from the profession.

Posted by: NCProsecutor | May 25, 2007 8:40:09 AM

Would you prefer the words "for the sake of argument" or "assuming, even though I disagree with your premise." But, perhaps we should start with Justices Thomas and Scalia who use it quite frequently.

Posted by: S.cotus | May 25, 2007 10:33:58 AM

Why don't we just return to the firing squad? It never fails, death is instantaneous, and there's no suspense about whether the technicians will find a vein.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | May 25, 2007 12:41:18 PM

Let's do it!

Posted by: Gary | May 25, 2007 12:53:00 PM

I am not so sure it is fool-proof, because in some not all the members of the squad have bullets. Whatever the case, I think that members of the squad should be elected by popular vote and should have their salaries publicized. This should be as democratic and open an event as possible. And, it should be on TV, and shown in the schools.

I would urge you all to look at the various methods of execution that could be used (and, of course, televised)

Posted by: S.cotus | May 25, 2007 1:54:43 PM

The firing squad carries a high and unnecessary risk of pain. There are many horrible stories about people bleeding to death.

Anon_Executioner, the disregard you show for the pain this procedure can cause is why you and other prison guards shouldn't be killing people. Apparently you just don't care if you cause pain.

Maybe you're just incompetent? Well, if you can't do it right, change the method.

Posted by: rothmatisseko | May 25, 2007 2:25:32 PM

one possible solution is to spend an extra few hundred dollars and insert a Intravenous line called a PICC line. This can be done at the bedside with flouro or ultrasound to eliminate the so-called torture of trying to find a vein. Registered Nurses can do this, who are usually staffed in a prison any way.But starting IV lines is a skill that one must use consistently to maintain a competency, especially on large people.I start IV's everday but have trouble with people that are overweight.

Posted by: Mark | May 25, 2007 8:45:08 PM

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