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Ohio execution survivor may face death again

  • Article by: Michael Muskal
  • Los Angeles Times
  • June 3, 2014 - 8:32 PM

Ohio’s top court will decide whether it is legal for the state to again try to kill the only living person to survive an execution attempt, or whether another effort to use lethal injection would violate his right to avoid cruel and unusual punishment.

The case is the latest twist in what has become the increasingly convoluted road to capital punishment in Ohio and in other states. Earlier this year, an inmate in Ohio took an extended period to die from a lethal injection and appeared at times to be suffocating and writhing in pain. All executions in Ohio are on hold until August to allow time to work out a new protocol for the injections.

The current case involves Romell Broom, 57, sentenced to be executed for the rape and slaying of 14-year-old Tryna Middleton in 1984. Broom was convicted of abducting her in Cleveland as she walked home from a football game.

On Sept. 15, 2009, executioners were preparing to put Broom to death and tried for at least an hour to find a suitable vein for an intravenous line to be inserted. The executioners reportedly kept hitting muscle and bone but never found a suitable vein. Broom was eventually sent back to death row.

Broom’s lawyers, Tim Sweeney and Adele Shank, argued in papers sent to the Ohio Supreme Court that their client has suffered more than any other inmate, so that a second attempt to execute him would be double jeopardy as well as cruel and unusual punishment.

“Once the phrase ‘close enough for government work’ was a reference to high quality and integrity,” they wrote. “In current usage it is a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment of government failure to meet acceptable standards. The way in which a capital sentence is carried out should not lend validity to doubt and distrust of the legal system or its mechanisms.”

The state, however, argues that Broom never went through the execution process since the procedure was canceled without the deadly chemicals being injected.

Broom is the only person in the United States who has survived a failed execution, his lawyers argue.

“Since the resumption of capital punishment in Ohio with Wilfred Berry’s execution in 1999, no inmate besides Broom has survived a failed execution attempt,” the lawyers wrote.

In 1947, Louisiana executed 18-year-old Willie Francis by electric chair a year after an improperly prepared electric chair failed to kill the teen. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to allow the second execution to proceed, rejecting double-jeopardy arguments.

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