Wed, Oct 07, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Botched execution leads to review of lethal injection


Last month’s botched execution of a US inmate, whose veins could not take a lethal injection, has led Ohio to call a moratorium that may prompt a wholesale reexamination of the execution method.

On Monday, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland granted a reprieve to two men facing execution, as his state re-examines lethal injection procedures.

The Democratic governor’s move came after the state tried for two hours to execute Romell Broom on Sept. 15, carrying out his sentence for murder.

Executioners were unable to find a vein to administer the lethal injection — despite 18 attempts to insert a needle.

Broom became the first death row inmate to survive his own scheduled execution since 1946. His attorneys have filed appeals so that he does not have to undergo the same punishment twice.

“I think Ohio executions are on hold until this case get resolved. It can take six months or a year,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

The Ohio governor said the state urgently needed to weigh alternatives.

“This could happen in any state that uses lethal injection. It just happened in Ohio, it came close to happening in Florida,” Dieter said.

He was referring to the case of Angel Diaz, who in December 2006, spent 34 minutes in agony when the chemicals were injected directly into his muscles. The drugs are first an anesthetic; then another to paralyze the muscles; and a third to stop the heart.

That case also prompted a reexamination of a practice that remains highly controversial but which has the support of a large number of Americans.

Dieter said the some of the problems with the administration of the injections stem from the fact that they are not done by doctors, in keeping with American Medical Association guidelines.

“They had these problems in other states because they all use basically the same protocol, three drugs, IV injection without a doctor,” he said.

Jennifer Brunner, a Democratic Senate candidate from Ohio, called in a Huffington Post opinion article for this latest controversy to spark a wider rethink of the death penalty.

“The execution of Broom is to be rescheduled. Now is the time to rethink, first, how we kill, and then move on to the larger question of whether we even should kill in the first place,” she said.

The New York Times has also called for a reexamination following a blunder that showed “death penalty at its most barbaric.”

Still, the use of lethal injections, employed in all US states that practice the death penalty, was upheld last year by the US Supreme Court. In the court’s main opinion, chief Justice John Roberts stated that the government was not required to eliminate all risk of pain in carrying out death sentences.

But division on the court left open the door to further debate. Left-leaning Judge John Paul Stevens said he was convinced that a “new debate” would begin on lethal injection as well as the death penalty.

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