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After Three Strikes, Ohio's Death Penalty Should be Out

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September 17, 2009

Around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, I was experiencing a terrible case of déjà vu. For the third time in as many years, I saw news reports that Ohio had botched an execution because of problems locating viable veins in the victim.

Romell Broom had been sentenced to die on September 15, 2009, following several failed appeals to delay his execution because of concerns over the lethal injection procedures and pleas for clemency. The state began the proceedings shortly after 2 p.m. Officials tried for nearly two hours to locate a usable vein, and the media accounts of what took place are positively stomach-churning.

After about an hour, Broom tried to help. He turned onto his left side, slid rubber tubing up his left arm, began moving the arm up and down and flexed and closed his fingers. The execution team was able to access a vein, but it collapsed when technicians tried to insert saline fluid.

Broom turned onto his back and covered his face with both hands. His torso heaved up and down and his feet shook. He wiped his eyes and was handed a roll of toilet paper, which he used to wipe his brow.

The team tried to insert shunts through veins in Broom’s legs, causing him to appear to grimace. A member of the execution team patted him on the back.

The similarities between what happened with Broom and two other inmates, Joseph L. Clark and Christopher Newton, were chilling. Clark was executed in May 2006, but the execution was delayed several hours because his veins kept collapsing. The procedure was so botched, Clark sat up in the middle of the procedure and groaned, “It’s not working.” In May 2007, Christopher Newton’s execution took so long that officials allowed him to take a bathroom break in the middle of the procedure.

What is the difference between Clark, Newton and Broom? Broom survived this execution after Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland ordered a one-week reprieve in order to give officials time to find a way to put him to death.

Broom’s survival is unprecedented in the history of lethal injection in the United States. No condemned person has ever been subjected to a botched lethal injection attempt, survived, and then condemned to die using the same procedure only a week later.

After three failed executions in our state, it is clear that our procedures are fundamentally flawed and that no one else should be put to death using these methods. If we continue using these procedures without a critical and thorough reform, it will not be a matter of if another botched execution occurs, but when. Governor Strickland must show leadership on this issue and halt all executions.

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