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September 15, 2009

More on Ohio's execution troubles and what could happen next

This new article at CNN now has a pretty full report on what happened today in Ohio when the state sought to execute a condemned murderer:

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland on Tuesday gave a death-row inmate a one-week reprieve after authorities tried for hours to find a vein to administer his lethal injection. "Difficulties in administering the execution protocol necessitate a temporary reprieve," said Strickland's Warrant of Reprieve, filed in court Tuesday afternoon in the case of inmate Romell Broom.

Broom's defense attorney, Tim Sweeney, wrote Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer on Tuesday that, "I am advised by my co-counsel, Adele Shank, who is at the prison in Lucasville, that the execution team has been attempting since approximately 1 p.m. this afternoon to obtain IV access to a site in Mr. Broom's body in order for the lethal injections to be administered, but without any success. "It appears ... that these efforts have been going on now for almost two hours, and that the execution team members have evidently now taken a 'break,' " Sweeney wrote....

"When such allegedly skilled professionals have taken this much time without successfully achieving IV access, there comes a point of diminishing returns, and a point when further attempts are cruel and counterproductive," Sweeney wrote to Moyer. "I believe we have reached that point here."...

Strickland's document directs the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to carry out Broom's execution on September 22, "unless further reprieve or clemency is granted."  Broom, 52, was convicted of abducting, raping and fatally stabbing a 14-year-old girl in East Cleveland in 1984, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper.

Call me a cynic or a realist, but I think it is very unlikely that Broom's execution will go forward on September 22.  As I noted in this prior post, the Sixth Circuit has recently been fighting over whether and how it can consider the merits of Ohio's lethal injection protocol, and I have to assume Broom's lawyers might get that court's full attention now.  Also, Broom's lawyers might develop a new set of arguments to present to state courts based in state constitutional law contending that the state is not allowed try again to execute Broom after this failed attempt. 

In modern times, a completely failed lethal injection execution is unchartered legal terrain, and Broom's lawyers are certainly going to urge state and federal courts to grant a stay so that have plenty of time to chart this terrain.  Whether Broom avoids execution altogether is hard to predict, but I won't be at all surprised if Broom live a lot longer than just an extra week.

UPDATE:  I just noticed this notable reaction from Kent Scheidegger at Crime & Consequences: "I have said from the beginning that the switch to lethal injection was a bad idea.  All we needed to do to fix the gas chamber problem was use a different gas."  I have an inkling that the Ohio legislature is unlikely to take this advice as the best response to its new lethal injection problem, but you never know.

September 15, 2009 at 06:32 PM | Permalink


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Prisoner wasn't that picky with his 14 year old victim. A hooded police officer should enter the chamber, put his pistol against his temple, and fire it. Carry a backup pistol in case it misfires. Such a death will be far less cruel than the deaths of 90% of all of us. In agony for months, in diapers, flying from pain meds, totally stupid from dementia, annoying the staff and family with effluvial body fluids.

The pickiness of the lawyer is totally pretextual. Nothing will satisfy him.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 15, 2009 7:15:53 PM

Oh Kent, is there anything about DP that you don't love? Breaking news, there isn't a magical gas that will instantly kill someone without excessive pain.

Posted by: . | Sep 15, 2009 7:35:55 PM

There are currently 10 R and 5 D active judges with one Obama nominee waiting confirmation. The one Reagan and one H W Bush appointees are now eligible for senior status. If they avail it during Obama term, then Sixth will be 8-8 and perhaps less rancorous en banc decisions.

The 6th and the 8th might be the only circuits that won't have a D majority by the end of one Obama term. They have not only a R majority, but a W Bush majority.

Posted by: . | Sep 15, 2009 7:40:36 PM


There are certain vaporized organophosphates that have 100% quick acting lethality. With that said, I doubt any state wants to be labeled as using nerve gas on American citizens.

Posted by: .. | Sep 15, 2009 11:03:41 PM

"With that said, I doubt any state wants to be labeled as using nerve gas on American citizens."

Thanks for the info, but I think texas and florida will disagree with you.

Posted by: . | Sep 16, 2009 8:54:59 AM

If I recall, this is now three consecutive attempted executions in Ohio that have not gone very smoothly. Something is really up in Ohio.

I'm actually with SC on this one--shot to head is a far more humane way of executing someone. Quick, painless, cheap, and nearly 100% effective. But we will never enact such a measure, because it will make witnesses to the execution uncomfortable. Same reason why states use a paralyzer drug for lethal injections, and why Ohio refused to allow an inmate to decline covering his face when Old Sparky was still around. How odd that states, in their efforts to claim humaneness, have concerned themselves more with the comfort of the witnesses than the effectiveness of the method.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Sep 16, 2009 9:08:00 AM

1) Negative: There are several gases that can kill "instantly"; one is harmless in low concentrations, kills instantly (one or two gulps) in high concentratiions,has no risk of explosion, amd is cheap to produce. Every chemist or toxicologist should know what it is.

2) on 7 June 2000, the state of Florida botched most terribly the execution of Benny Demps, whose conviction was a close thing. When the Goons could not find a vein, they called in a "medically trained" person (doctor?) to do a cut down--that is cutting through the skin to find a vein. Even that was botched, and Demps said that "it was butchery".

3) In Alabama, a man named Moore had his injection postponed because the killers could not find a vein. And the beat goes on.

Previously, Executions went off without a hitch; Ohio's firstv two elecrocutins, on 20 April 1897 --- that's right, 1897 -- went off without any problems, the two condemned "looked like they were falling asleep". Instead of improving the pocedure, changes made in the procedure made the murder most foul. What did they know then that we do not know now?

When done properly, even hanging is relatively painless. If we must continue the barbaric practice of state sanctioned murder, at least do it properly. Better yet, let us join the rest of the civilized world and abolish the death penalty, except for Damyankee fans.

G M Larkin MD
Forensic Patholoogist

Posted by: Glenn Larkin | Sep 16, 2009 9:12:43 AM

Has anyone checked the files we confiscated after WWII? Maybe Kent can file a FOIA request to gain some insight on the best way to run a gas chamber.

Posted by: anon | Sep 16, 2009 5:26:24 PM

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