« "Should life in jail be worse than life outside?" | Main | West Virginia Supreme Court finds life sentence under recidivist statute violates state constitution's proportionality principle »

November 15, 2017

Ohio unable to complete execution for elderly murderer once called death penalty “poster child”

As detailed in this AP report, headlined "Ohio calls off execution after failing to find inmate's vein" the state of Ohio had the wrong kind of eventful lethal injection experience this morning.  Here are the details:

It was only the third time in U.S. history that an execution has been called off after the process had begun.

The execution team first worked on both of Alva Campbell's arms for about 30 minutes Wednesday while he was on a gurney in the state's death chamber and then tried to find a vein in his right leg below the knee.  Members of the execution team used a device with a red flashing light that appeared to be a way of locating veins while also periodically comforting Campbell, patting him on the arm and shoulder.

About 80 minutes after the execution was scheduled to begin, the 69-year-old Campbell shook hands with two guards after it appeared the insertion was successful. About two minutes later, media witnesses were told to leave without being told what was happening.

Gary Mohr, head of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said the team humanely handled the attempt, but the condition of Campbell's veins had changed since checks in Tuesday.  He said he called off the execution after talking with the medical team. "It was my decision that it was not likely that we're going to access veins," Mohr said.

Campbell, who was scheduled to die for killing a teenager during a carjacking two decades ago, shook hands with execution team members and wiped away tears after being informed the execution was being called off, said his attorney, David Stebbins.  "This is a day I'll never forget," Campbell said, according to Stebbins. 

Stebbins said he doesn't know what will happen next, but he added that Campbell's health problems and poor veins are a continuing problem.  Campbell, who was scheduled to die for killing a teenager during a carjacking two decades ago, will be sent back to death row and there will be some consideration for a future execution date, Mohr said....

Campbell's attorneys had warned the inmate's death could become a spectacle because of his breathing problems and because an exam failed to find veins suitable for IV insertion.  They argued he was too ill to execute, and also should be spared because of the effects of a brutal childhood in which he had been beaten, sexually abused and tortured....

Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien called Campbell "the poster child for the death penalty." Prosecutors also said Campbell's health claims were ironic given he faked paralysis to escape court custody the day of the fatal carjacking.  On April 2, 1997, Campbell was in a wheelchair when he overpowered a Franklin County sheriff's deputy on the way to a court hearing on several armed robbery charges, records show. Campbell took the deputy's gun, carjacked the 18-year-old Charles Dials and drove around with him for several hours before shooting him twice in the head as Dials crouched in the footwell of his own truck, according to court records....

Earlier this month, Campbell lost a bid to be executed by firing squad after a federal judge questioned whether lawmakers would enact the bill needed to allow the method.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ACLU of Ohio already has issued this press release headed "Ohio Must Enact Moratorium on Executions."  It will be interesting to see if the rhetoric at the start of the press release becomes used by abolitionists throughout not just Ohio but the country:

After nearly 30 minutes of torture as medical personnel attempted to find a useable vein for the lethal injection of Alva Campbell, Jr the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections called off his execution. This comes after weeks of advocacy from Campbell’s counsel explaining that he was too ill and death by lethal injection would be tortuous. The following statement can be attributed to ACLU of Ohio Senior Policy Director Mike Brickner:

"This marks the fifth botched execution for Ohio in recent years, and the second time the state could not complete an execution.  This is not justice, and this is not humane.  Campbell was poked and prodded for nearly two hours as prison officials and medical personnel attempted to find a useable vein.  This type of state-sponsored torture is not acceptable and the state of Ohio must place a moratorium on executions immediately.  Today the state made a spectacle of a man’s life, and the cruel and unusual practice of lethal injection must end."

Recent prior related post:

November 15, 2017 at 01:17 PM | Permalink


Send him back to population, and wave a carton of cigarettes in the air. The prisoners will understand.

Only a lawyer could say, someone is too ill to be put to death. Only a lawyer could advocate on behalf on pure evil.

Lawyers are cheap prostitutes. For the low salaries paid by the ACLU, they defend the indefensible.

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 15, 2017 7:25:08 PM

Too bad, DAB. Maybe it should just be ignored?

Posted by: anon | Nov 16, 2017 2:27:32 PM

Maybe what should be ignored, anon?

Are you suggesting we ignore the person Campbell murdered 35 years ago or the person he murdered 20 years ago?

Or are you suggesting we ignore the death sentence that a jury imposed on Campbell for his second murder?

Gov Kasich has set a new execution date for Campell of June 5, 2019. As that date approaches, I doubt his defense attorneys will say this failed first execution attempt should just be ignored: if the gravely ill Campbell lives until his next execution date, I expect his attorneys will argue in various fora that the failed first execution effort should preclude any other attempt.

Posted by: Doug B. | Nov 16, 2017 3:35:48 PM

Unsurprisingly, you apparently ignored - or just don't care about - anything written in the ACLU piece, despite your feigned concern about problems with the administration of capital punishment in Ohio. You are, in fact, nothing more than a fraud on the issue.


Posted by: anon | Nov 18, 2017 12:34:50 PM

anon's previous comment was vague and Mr. B asked for clarification.

He is basically aware of the stuff in the article. The two people seem to be talking past each other somewhat.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 18, 2017 6:38:36 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB