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March 8, 2010

Ohio gets a new problem on its way toward a one-drug lethal injection

If Ohio official were hoping that their switch to a one-drug lethal injection protocol would end all the challenging issues with execution, the next inmate for the death chamber has reminded us all that state killing is never easy.  Specifically, as detailed in this new AP piece, which is headlined "Execution Near, Inmate Found Unconscious," condemned murderer Lawrence Reynolds has presented a new kind of problem for Ohio.  Here are the basics:

Prison officials in Ohio say an inmate scheduled to be executed Tuesday has been found unconscious in prison.  Prisons spokeswoman Julie Walburn says Lawrence Reynolds Jr. was found unconscious about 11:30 p.m. Sunday at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown.

Walburn says it appears Reynolds injured himself and that authorities are investigating a possible attempted overdose of pills. She did not know what kind.

Reynolds is hospitalized in serious condition. Walburn says the state has a constitutional duty to care for Reynolds. It was unclear Monday whether his execution would go forward.

March 8, 2010 at 12:53 PM | Permalink


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Common Cents

Posted by: Steve | Mar 8, 2010 1:24:32 PM

I don't imagine he can be treated fast enough for his 10am execution. Still, Stickland can and has given short reprieves with problematic executions. If there is no court stay, he can enter a week long reprieve for Reynolds allowing him to be treated quickly and get executed. Otherwise, given the once-a-month rule and the backlog of execution requests Reynolds may have bought himself a year or two more of life.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Mar 8, 2010 1:34:23 PM

Hopefully, if his execution needs to be rescheduled, the Ohio Supreme Court can reset the date quickly. Hopefully, it will not be necessary.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 8, 2010 1:40:33 PM

Why should the execution be postponed? The only thing that has changed is that the executionee is already unconscious. Why treat him back to health just to kill him? In fact, I think it's a more humane execution that he is already unconscious and doesn't have to suffer through walking into the room or watching the IV get stuck in him.

I am no supporter of the death penalty. But assuming that his being unconscious does not change anything else about his execution (and that it would have went forward as planned had he been conscious), there is no reason to stop it.

Of course the state has "a constitutional duty to care for Reynolds." But doesn't that duty, by definition, end the moment the state is authorized to kill him?

Posted by: DEJ | Mar 8, 2010 1:50:24 PM

It has been postponed for one week.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 8, 2010 1:55:43 PM

"The only thing that has changed is that the executionee is already unconscious."

I think it is highly unlikely that a person who is completely unconscious could be competent to be executed.

Posted by: JC | Mar 8, 2010 3:36:48 PM

JC --

What about if he's unconscious of his own choosing?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 8, 2010 4:52:36 PM

"What about if he's unconscious of his own choosing?"

Interesting question, as competence generally is not an issue of voluntariness. One generally cannot will oneself into a state of incompetence. If an inmate said, "I want to be rendered unconscious before you take me to the execution chamber," I think that would probably defeat any claim of incompetence. In this case, though, the state of unconsciousness was brought about by a suicide attempt, which I think is distinguishable. If he'd tried to kill himself five years ago and remained in a coma today, surely he would not be regarded as being competent to be executed.

Posted by: JC | Mar 8, 2010 6:48:03 PM

This is good evidence for lawyer idiocy. Get rid of this idiot from the criminal law policy.

Go to the hospital room, stop all treatment, and give him his lethal injection while unconscious. The death penalty is not a punishment. It is an expulsion of the person from the world, a permanent incapacitation. If the death penalty is meant to deter other people, that violates Fifth Amendment procedural due process rights of the defendant. You cannot punish a person for the unknown, future, speculative crimes of another.

That would carry out the verdict, and prevent spiraling health costs at taxpayer expense.

Posted by: Supermacy Claus | Mar 8, 2010 8:40:57 PM

I haven't heard any comments on what it says about the state of security in our prisons when a death row prisoner -- let alone one who is scheduled for imminent execution, and therefore possibly on under a heightened custody status -- can get his hands on enough pills to nearly complete a successful suicide. Geez Louise.

Posted by: Observer | Mar 10, 2010 1:34:05 PM

Observer --

Good observation.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 11, 2010 3:09:13 AM

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