Ohio Needs a Moratorium on Executions Now

October 1, 2009

The death penalty is always inhumane, but Ohio’s failed attempt to execute Romell Broom on September 15th was particularly disturbing.  During the two-hour ordeal the execution team repeatedly attempted and failed to find a useable vein in which to insert the lethal injection needle, and eventually had to give up.  Mr. Broom’s execution has been stayed, but Lawrence Reynolds, Darryl Durr, and Kenneth Biros are still scheduled to be put to death before the end of this year. Mr. Reynolds lawyers have filed for a stay of execution, pointing out that this latest failed execution attempt is further evidence of “a pattern of serious problems with the administration of lethal injection in Ohio.”  While the victims of these crimes and their families always suffer greatly, the perpetuation of violence through the death penalty is never the most constructive way to handle such tragedies.

Unfortunately, this situation is not unique; in Ohio alone there have been at least two other poorly handled executions over the last three years. In May of 2006, it took the Ohio execution team nearly half an hour to find a useable vein in condemned prisoner Joseph Clark’s arm, and then that vein collapsed, causing Clark’s arm to swell. The witnesses reported hearing “moaning, crying out and guttural noises” coming from behind the curtain while the execution team continued to try for 30 more minutes to find another vein. It wasn’t until an hour and a half after the execution began that Joseph Clark was pronounced dead.

In 2007 another execution team in Ohio struggled to find useable veins in condemned prisoner, this time Christopher Newton. It was again a prolonged ordeal, and Mr. Newton was not declared dead until nearly two hours after the execution process began.
Ohio state officials still have no contingency plan for these kinds of situations, and they are not addressed in the state’s lethal injection protocol. Because of this clear evidence that the state of Ohio has serious problems administering lethal injections, please tell Ohio Governor Ted Strickland to stop executions from being carried out in his state.