Blog of Rights

U.S. Supreme Court Confirms Ohio Can’t Be Trusted to Carry Out Executions

By Mike Brickner, ACLU of Ohio at 3:41pm

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the state of Ohio’s appeal to continue with the execution of Charles Lorraine. The execution was put on indefinite hold by Federal District Court Judge Gregory L. Frost in July. In his ruling, Judge Frost said:

Ohio pays lip service to standards it then often ignores without valid reasons, sometimes with no physical ramifications and sometimes with what have been described as messy if not botched executions.

The only consistent aspect of Ohio’s execution protocols is that they are fraught with problems. Over the past five years, the state has had  three botched executions. The first was Joseph L. Clark execution in 2006. Mr. Clark’s execution was delayed significantly because of collapsed veins. Witnesses overheard him exclaim “It don’t work” during the procedure. The next botched execution took place in 2007, when the execution team could not locate suitable veins on Christopher Newton. The execution took so long, Newton had to go for a bathroom break.

The third, Romell Broom's 2009 attempted execution – during which officials tried unsuccessfully for over two hours to locate a usable vein – led the state to implement experimental procedures. Following the changes in procedures, several death row inmates have challenged the constitutionality of the state’s lethal injection protocols.

Unfortunately, this is not the only problem with Ohio’s death penalty system. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision comes only a few weeks after the exoneration of Joe D'Ambrosio, following revelations of widespread prosecutorial misconduct in his case. D’Ambrosio is the sixth person to be released from Ohio’s death row.

Amidst growing concern over fairness, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor has convened a study commission to examine fundamental concerns about the application of the state’s death penalty. With the latest order by the U.S. Supreme Court and ongoing concerns around the nation, there is little doubt that the death penalty is deeply flawed. A system that is unfair, untrustworthy and unconstitutional should not be tolerated by Ohioans any longer—it’s time to scrap the death penalty altogether.

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