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Ohio Inmate's Execution Not Constitutional, Lawsuit Says

By John Seewer
Associated Press
Tuesday, July 3, 2007

TOLEDO, July 2 -- The mother of a condemned inmate whose execution took almost 90 minutes -- an hour longer than is typical -- sued the head of Ohio's prisons Monday.

Irma Clark's lawsuit said the execution of Joseph Clark in May 2006 amounted to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, and she wants the state to change the way it carries out death sentences.

Joining Clark and her family at a news conference Monday was Michael Manning, whose brother David was killed by Clark in November 1984.

"Nobody should have to die a horrible death," Manning said.

The lawsuit was filed in Cincinnati federal court on behalf of Clark's estate, which lists his mother as administrator.

Prison staff had problems finding a usable vein on Clark, and a vein they used collapsed. The execution team also tried to administer the lethal drugs through the original intravenous line by mistake, according to written accounts that the execution team is required to submit.

During the first injection attempt, Clark, 57, finally pushed himself up and said, "It don't work."

Manning, who was inside the death chamber, said he watched in disbelief. He said he heard Clark moaning after prison staff closed the curtains.

"You could tell he was in pain," Manning said. "My head was spinning."

During the second attempt at finding a vein, Clark asked, "Can you just give me something by mouth to end this?"

Prisons spokeswoman Andrea Dean said she did not know whether Clark's moans were caused by pain. "He didn't appear to be in any physical distress," she said.

The state changed its lethal injection process after Clark's execution to ensure that veins can be found more carefully and quickly to avoid similar delays, Dean said. But this May, an execution team struggled to find veins in another inmate's arm. Christopher Newton died nearly two hours after the scheduled start of his execution.

The lawsuit also named as defendants the 12 members of the execution team and the warden of the prison where the execution took place. It seeks at least $150,000 in damages.

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