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September 17, 2009

Notable reactions in national and local papers in response to Ohio's "unexecuted"

Both the New York Times and the Columbus Dispatch have fascinating articles with lots of notable quotes concerning Ohio's difficulty on Tuesday trying to execute Romell Broom via lethal injection.  First, this NYT article under the headline "Ohio Plans to Try Again as Execution Goes Wrong," includes these notable quotes: 

[Broom's] lawyers described what happened Tuesday as torture and said they would try to block the execution. One of them, Adele Shank, said: “He survived this execution attempt, and they really can’t do it again. It was cruel and unusual punishment.” Ms. Shank watched Tuesday’s procedure on closed-circuit television. “I could see him on the screen,” she said, “and it was apparent to me that he was wincing with pain.”

The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday that the state must abolish lethal injection. “This is the third screwed-up execution in three years,” said Jeffrey M. Gamso of the A.C.L.U. of Ohio. “They keep tweaking their protocol, but it takes more than tweaks. They don’t know how to do this competently, and they need to stop.”

In referring to two previous troubled executions in Ohio, Mr. Gamso was speaking of the death of Joseph Clark in 2006, delayed more than an hour because of problems with IV placement, and the 2007 execution of Christopher Newton, also delayed more than an hour while technicians tried at least 10 times to insert the IV.

The director of the state corrections department, Terry J. Collins, said he and his staff were seeking the advice of doctors and others to plan for a successful execution next Tuesday. “I won’t have discussions about ‘what if it doesn’t work next week’ at this point,” Mr. Collins said, “because I have confidence that my team will be able to do its job.”

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports the death penalty, said problems with veins were inevitable in lethal injection by IV. Mr. Scheidegger said he favored execution methods involving intramuscular injection or a return to gas chambers, but with a poison other than cyanide, which was long under attack because of the suffering it can inflict.

Second, this front-page, above-the-fold Dispatch article under the headline "What's next for unexecuted inmate? Plan still is death," includes this discussion of some of the enduring medical, legal and practical issues: 

The state does have a few options on the injections, said Dr. Sean Collins, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Cincinnati. Radiology equipment could be used to locate a vein farther under the skin, or a line could be inserted into the vein in Broom's neck. However, those procedures are typically done at hospitals -- usually by physicians. Ohio's execution team is made up of emergency medical technicians.

State prisons spokeswoman Julie Walburn said officials are assessing what the EMTs are qualified to do -- including possible "additional access points" that could be used for lethal injection. They are not allowed to do most medical procedures and "will not work outside the scope of what they're trained to do," she said....

On the legal front, Broom's attorneys, S. Adele Shank of Columbus and Timothy Sweeney of Cleveland, said they almost certainly will file legal challenges to block round two. Sweeney said Broom needs time to heal from what Broom told his attorneys were 18 different needle sticks in his arms and legs.

The attorneys will consider filing an appeal based on the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. "Ohio has a special statutory provision that requires executions to be 'quick and painless,' " Sweeney said. "This execution team has demonstrated clearly they're incapable (of) providing a quick and painless execution to Mr. Broom."...

Strickland said yesterday that the Broom case presented a "very unusual set of circumstances" that does not warrant an overall review of capital punishment in Ohio. "The EMTs, my understanding is, are adequately trained," the governor said. " ... My understanding is that the problem is associated with the physical condition of the inmate, not the inability of the EMTs to perform as they were required to perform."

But like anything in medicine, it takes practice to get good at inserting an IV line. Nurses at Ohio State University Medical Center, for example, can insert at least two IV lines a day. And if they have trouble getting one in after two tries, they'll ask someone more experienced. "It's a thing you have to keep doing and doing, and over time you get a feel," said Shirley McCoy, nursing staff-development specialist at the OSU Medical Center. "You can decide by looking and feeling the vein; it's just really a skill that nurses build up over time."

The EMTs on the state's execution team are primarily corrections employees who may work part time on local fire departments.

Related posts on botched Broom execution attempt:

September 17, 2009 at 09:56 AM | Permalink


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What a horrible incident!

Posted by: KCADP | Sep 17, 2009 8:28:01 PM

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