OHIO (USA). HOUR-PLUS DELAY IN LETHAL INJECTION
May 24, 2007: An execution was delayed more than an hour while prison medical staff struggled to find suitable veins in the condemned man's arms â the second time that has happened in Ohio in little more than a year.
The execution team stuck Christopher Newton at least 10 times with needles to get in place the shunts used to administer the lethal chemicals. Newton, who had insisted on the death penalty as punishment for killing a cellmate, continued to talk, smile and laugh with the prison staff, and at one point was even given a bathroom break.
When he eventually was moved from his holding cell and strapped to a table in the death chamber, he made this short statement: "Yes, boy, I could sure go for some beef stew and a chicken bone. That's it."
Newton, 37, was pronounced dead at 11:53 a.m. at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility; his execution had been set to begin at 10.
He weighed 265 at his physical on May 23. The head of the Public Defender's death penalty division, Joe Wilhelm, said Newton told him it was hard for blood to be taken from his veins because of his weight.
The public defender's office said the decision was made not to intervene when the execution was delayed.
"You have to remember that Newton wanted to die. Our job isn't to oppose the death penalty, it's to represent our clients," said Greg Meyer, chief counsel for the Ohio Public Defender's Office.
In May 2006, the execution of another Ohio inmate, Joseph Lewis Clark, also was delayed more than an hour because the team could not find a suitable vein; a prison official said at the time that Clark's history of drug use may have been a factor. That case has been cited by death penalty opponents as an example of problems with lethal injection.
Executions typically last about 20 minutes. A group of Ohio inmates is suing over the state's injection method, saying it is unconstitutionally cruel, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called on the state to stop executions because of Thursday's problems.
The delay will be discussed as part of that suit and helps show the state is unable to complete executions smoothly, Meyer said.
"There will be a day in trial that they will have to answer up as to what caused this two-hour delay," Meyer said. "That's a lot of time messing around trying to get a needle in a vein."
Gov. Ted Strickland said every precaution was taken to make sure Newton was treated respectfully and was not in pain.
"The procedure worked as it was intended to work," Strickland said. "If someone is against the death penalty then I can understand why they would want me to have a moratorium on the death penalty, but I think what happened today is not any supporting justification for that."
"There was not a cause to intervene," Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said. "Out of an abundance of caution, every precaution was taken before the procedure began to ensure that there would be no problems when the procedure began."
Newton beat and choked cellmate Jason Brewer, 27, to death in 2001 after they argued over a chess game.
In a statement read by public defender Robert Lowe after the execution, Newton apologized to his victim's family. "If I could take it back, I would," the statement said. "To my family, I love you and I'm sorry."
Although his attorneys argued Newton should be spared the death penalty because of mental disorders, a court last fall found him competent to forgo his appeals. The prosecution had argued that he had feigned mental illness.
Court documents say Newton, who spent much of his adult life in prison, knew Brewer's killing was a capital crime, and refused to cooperate with investigators unless they sought the death penalty.
In an interview with reporters last month, Newton said he killed Brewer because he repeatedly gave up while they were playing chess.
"Every time I put him in check, he'd give up and want to start a new game," Newton said. "And I tried to tell him you never give up ... I just got tired of it."
Newton also claimed that he had intentionally gotten himself put back in prison by leaving behind a handprint during a 1999 break-in at his father's house. (Sources: Ap, 24/05/2007)