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Botched Execution Angers Ohio Abolitionists
by Sharon Danann Sunday, Jun. 10, 2007 at 8:15 PM


On May 24, Ohio set a new record—for the length of time taken to execute a prisoner. The medical technicians worked for 90 minutes to put shunts into the veins of Christopher Newton, so long he had to be allowed to get off the execution table to have a bathroom break. During this time activists barraged the office of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland with phone calls, threatening to alert the media.

Once the injection of lethal chemicals began, it took an additional 16 minutes for Newton to die, compared to an average of 7.5 minutes. According to the Associated Press report, his stomach contorted, his chin shook and his body had two mild convulsions. This indicates that the deadly “cocktail” was not performing as expected.

Prison officials blamed Newton’s weight for the difficulty in finding veins. Newton was 6 feet tall and weighed 265 pounds.

Kathy Soltis of the Cleveland Coalition Against the Death Penalty and the Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense Committee, made the following comment: “The sentence, to which we object in absolute terms, is death, not death preceded by torture. Being stuck repeatedly with needles is not part of the deal.”

A year ago, the botched execution of Joseph Clark took more than 80 minutes, much of the delay also caused by difficulties in finding a vein. Clark begged to be killed in some other way. The prison system promised to make procedural changes to prevent a recurrence.

Following Clark’s traumatic execution, a group of prisoners filed a class action lawsuit challenging the lethal injection method. The courts have allowed executions of inmates who are plaintiffs in this suit.

The ACLU of Ohio called for an immediate end to all executions in light of two botched executions a year apart. Gov. Strickland stated that the May 24 debacle “is not a justification for a change of position regarding the death penalty in Ohio.” He is also “personally satisfied that everything was done” to show consideration for Newton.

The Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense Committee has been active in the movement to bring the broad opposition to the death penalty to Gov. Strickland’s attention, including the use of a postcard campaign circulated through its prisoner network.

To contact Gov. Strickland on this issue, people can write to him at 77 South High Street, Columbus, OH 43215, fax 614-466-9354, or call 614-466-3555. For Web mail, go to governor.ohio.gov, click on “Constituent Affairs,” and then click on “Contact the Governor.”
Articles copyright 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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