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February 17, 2011

Ohio completes long-awaited execution (and the seventh in six different states in 2011)

As detailed in this local article, Ohio got its machinery of death up and running earlier today.  Here is the backstory of a particularly notable execution:

When Frank Spisak was going on "hunting parties" targeting blacks in Cleveland, Ronald Reagan was president, a stamp cost 20 cents and the Cincinnati Bengals played in the Super Bowl XVI.

More than 10,000 days later, Spisak, 59, a triple murderer, was executed today at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.  The time of death was 10:34 a.m. The 27 years between the murders on the Cleveland State University campus in 1982 and Spisak's final punishment was the longest gap in Ohio's 42 executions since 1999....

Spisak, who blamed mental illness for his hatred of gays, blacks and Jews, was the last person in Ohio to be lethally injected with sodium thiopental.  The state will no longer use the drug because the sole U.S. manufacturer stopped making it.  Beginning with the execution of Johnnie Baston on March 10, the state will use pentobarbital, a fast-acting barbiturate that is more readily available.

Between February and August of 1982, Spisak shot and killed the Rev. Horace Rickerson, 57; Timothy Sheehan, 50; and Brian Warford, 18.  He said he was going on "hunting parties" and hoped to spark a race war in Cleveland.  He shot Hardaway and shot at but missed a woman on the urban university campus.

Spisak was an admirer of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.  He carried a copy of Mein Kampf and grew a Hitler mustache during his 1983 trial. Spisak suffered from bipolar disorder and had a lifelong struggle over his sexual identity. He referred to himself as Frances and in 1999 sued the state for "keeping her locked up on Death Row in an all-male prison environment where she cannot receive appropriate hormonal and surgical treatment for her physical and mental defects."

Spisak lost all his appeals, including the last one to the U.S. Supreme Court in which he argued that he should not be executed because of Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul E. Pfeiffer's comments about the unevenness of the death penalty's application.

As the title of this pose is meant to spotlight, I find this latest execution notable in part because it make Ohio the sixth state to conduct an execution in just the first two months of 2011. (This DPIC page provides the basics on this year's executions to date.)  It is sometimes easy to believe that the death penalty is on its last legs in the United States and that only Texas keep capital punishment in the headlined.  But we have now averaged an execution per week in the United States in first couple months of 2011, and we have done so because five states other than Texas have gotten condemned defendants all the way to the execution chamber.

February 17, 2011 at 03:25 PM | Permalink


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Editorial boards and lefty organizations have continued the onslaught against the use of the death penalty. This fever pitch has been exacerbated this year due to a shortage of one of the drugs. These radicals go to every length to stop the states from carrying out justice. Now that want to forbid foreign countries to export these drugs, but only to state executioners. Its still ok apparently to provide them to hospitals and vet clinics. Amazing double-standard. It was just a year ago during the Obama care debates that they were all arguing for cheaper importation of foreign drugs. Now that want the FDA to stop the drugs. Maybe we should go back to hanging. I think we still produce rope in the USA. Although I'm sure China can underbid us. Time to take advantage of the change in State legislatures to RENEW the death penalty in Alaska, New Mexico, West Virginia, North Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. VT, HI, and MA are lost causes

Posted by: DeanO | Feb 17, 2011 3:54:52 PM


good points. As for this case, Spisak would not have been executed had SCOTUS not reversed the 6th Circuit.

Posted by: DaveP | Feb 17, 2011 5:20:41 PM

Scotus overturned the 6th not once but twice. After the second time they gave up. Hopefully, the federal court that has been siting on the Mumia case since the Spisak decision will do the same.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Feb 17, 2011 6:07:39 PM


unfortunately from the oral argument snips that I read from the 3rd Circuit hearing, I don't think Pennsylvania is going to prevail on this one, at least there.

Posted by: DaveP | Feb 17, 2011 6:20:12 PM

VINDICTIVENESS LIVES!! What a proud proud day for all Ohioans. The citizens of the state should be over-joyed at the vindictive practice employed today to ensure that government got its just revenge!

Posted by: neanderthal | Feb 17, 2011 6:56:38 PM

The support of the death penalty could reach unanimity if it were announced that the lawyer hierarchy was to be indicted, tried briefly if fairly, then summarily executed for its insurrection against the constitution and internal treason. To deter.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 17, 2011 8:25:48 PM

VENGEANCE LIVES once a week in 2011!!!! What a proud nation who gets her revenge!

Posted by: neanderthal | Feb 17, 2011 8:27:07 PM

Ah, Mumia, dare to dream. Mumia Abu-Jamal richly deserves death. If he is ever executed, the left will explode.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 17, 2011 8:28:52 PM

What's it like being a troll?

Posted by: MikeinCT | Feb 17, 2011 11:51:46 PM

Unstated in the good professor's comments is the following detail: Ohio will be the national leader in executions this year. Unless there is a legislative change, Texas will need to stand down, since their supply of sodium thiopental all expires on March 1, 2011 (unless they have helped themselves to the exported drug supply in Arizona and California). That means Texas will have two executions this year, unless something changes. Ohio, on the other hand, had its first of the year today, followed by another 6 more in the coming 6 months for which dates are already set. It's also likely that there will be still another 6 more on top of that, meaning one a month every month between now and April of 2012. I'm sure people in this state would be thrilled to know we will quickly ascend to the top of the execution heap.

Posted by: ALB | Feb 18, 2011 2:13:46 AM


as in my previous post, I don't think Mumia will ever be executed unless the Supreme Court somehow reverses the 3rd. Even if they vacate their previous opinion on remand,which I doubt, they will send it back to the district court for some other issues that it did not consider when it vacated the sentence many years ago. Result: years of delay. One case that might get the left to explode is the Troy Davis case. SCOTUS should resolve that before the end of the term.

Posted by: DaveP | Feb 18, 2011 7:39:28 AM

yes, ALB, they should and will be thrilled and proud at the display of vengeance and revenge!!! The ultimate satisfaction of the human urge for revenge is so satisfying. Thrilled and proud; thrilled and proud!

Posted by: neanderthal | Feb 18, 2011 9:40:13 AM

ALB --

Do you really, truly think Texas will have only two executions this year?

Wanna bet? How much?

P.S. For good reason, the great majority in this country supports the death penalty for persons convicted of particularly grotesque murders, and whose guilt is beyond any rational question. You earlier waffled on the question whether McVeigh's execution was warranted -- claiming to need "more information." But slightly more than 80% of the country backed that execution, including -- as Gallup found -- a majority of those who ordinarily oppose the DP on principle.

With all respect, given that you are in so outmanned a position, the burden of proving the supposed unacceptability of capital punishment is on you.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 18, 2011 2:04:02 PM

Nebraska has a big stash of thiopental, so they can make a few bucks selling it to Texas at a steep markup.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Feb 18, 2011 6:13:44 PM

Kent --

However the specifics may work out, the abolitionist notion that they can stop the DP with a shortage-of-drugs gimmick is absurd. The DP is the law in 35 states; has been upheld in Gregg and Baze; and enjoys massive public support. The idea that a consensus like that can be thwarted by playing games with drug supplies is -- and should be -- ridiculous.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 18, 2011 7:11:53 PM

Mumia's execution prob won't happen, although it's more likely than it was say five years ago.

As for Troy Davis, my guess is that SCOTUS simply denies the appeal, and leaves it at that. I don't think the 11th Circuit gets a cut at the case. The thing about Davis, and what will ultimately sink him, is that there's nothing out there that is going to exonerate him (unlike, say Skinner). So the Supreme Court won't ever get burned for turning Davis down. As a commonsense matter what proves Davis guilty is that he wasn't pointing fingers at Coles from the word go.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 18, 2011 9:13:13 PM

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