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Ohio Supreme Court says state can try to execute an inmate again after failed attempt

An undated photo of Romell Broom. (Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation via AP)

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the state could try to execute an inmate whom authorities tried but failed to execute in 2009.

In June 2015, the Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments on whether the state can try again to execute a convicted killer who survived a 2009 botched execution. (Video: Ohio Supreme Court)

In a 4-3 ruling, the court said that because the execution team never actually got any of the lethal drugs into the inmate’s system, his “life was never at risk since the drugs were not introduced.”

In 2009, the state of Ohio tried to execute Romell Broom, a man convicted of raping and murdering a teenager. Officials at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville repeatedly tried to insert the IV to deliver the drugs, but the lethal injection was eventually called off. Broom remains on the state’s death row.

“When the execution team was unable to establish IV lines, the attempt to execute Broom was halted,” Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote in an opinion joined by three other justices. “Because the lethal-injection drugs were never introduced into the IV lines, the execution was never commenced.” As a result, Lanzinger said, the court concluded that under the state constitution, Ohio could try again.

In one of two written dissents, Justice William M. O’Neill wrote that Lanzinger’s description of the first, unsuccessful attempt “chills me to the core” and said he worries about the trauma endured by state employees who tried and failed to execute Broom.

“I believe as a moral and constitutional matter that subjecting Broom to a second execution attempt after even one extremely painful and unsuccessful attempt is precisely the sort of ‘lingering death’ that the United States Supreme Court recognized as cruel within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment 125 years ago,” O’Neill wrote.

Broom was convicted of abducting, raping and killing 14-year-old Tryna Middleton in 1984.

During Broom’s scheduled lethal injection on Sept. 15, 2009, prison officials authorities spent two hours trying and failing to find a usable vein, making at least 10 attempts to insert the IV and causing Broom to repeatedly grimace in pain, witnesses said. (This followed two other troubled Ohio executions — one in 2006 and another in 2007 — that were delayed because officials had problems inserting the IV.)

A similar issue involving problems with an IV occurred in a botched execution in Oklahoma that drew worldwide attention in 2014.

Clayton Lockett, a convicted murderer, writhed and grimaced on the gurney during his lethal injection, which started late because the technician couldn’t find a place to insert the IV. After Lockett’s physical reaction, officials saw that his vein had collapsed, causing the drugs to seemingly leak or get absorbed into his tissue. Lockett’s execution was called off, but he died of a heart attack a short time later.

As a result of the problems with Broom’s lethal injection, then-Ohio governor Ted Strickland (D) called off his execution. Broom has remained on death row.

The Ohio Supreme Court said in 2014 that it would hear arguments regarding Broom’s appeal. While his attorneys had argued that a second attempted execution would be punishing Broom twice for the same crime, prosecutors argued that the first execution attempt never occurred since the IV could not be inserted.

Ohio has not carried out an execution since the state’s prolonged lethal injection of Dennis McGuire in 2014. Since that happened, the state revamped its execution protocols and, amid an ongoing shortage of lethal injection drugs, has repeatedly delayed its executions. The next execution in the state is scheduled for January 2017, a remarkably long lag between lethal injections for one of the country’s most active death-penalty states.


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