An Ohio man who became the third U.S. death row inmate in seven decades to survive his own execution filed a new appeal for mercy Tuesday, arguing that Ohio’s lethal injection protocol constitutes cruel and unusual punishment because one of its drugs may not work properly.
Alva Campbell, a 69-year-old man sentenced to death in 1998 for killing 18-year-old Charles Dial in a robbery, had his execution halted about 25 minutes after it was scheduled to start, according to the Associated Press. The execution team, it turned out, couldn’t pinpoint a vein that they could use to inject Campbell with a dosage of lethal drugs.
In court documents filed before the execution, Campbell’s lawyers warned that this was a possibility, as Campbell has a history of chronic heart and lung problems that can make finding a vein tricky. In fact, the prison was so worried that Campbell’s lungs would give out and he would stop breathing, while lying on the execution gurney, that the team gave him a wedge pillow to help him stay calm and alive until they could execute him.
Campbell’s lawyers also cited Ohio’s bad track record when it came to successfully carrying out executions. Though the first failed execution in modern U.S. history took place in 1946, when Louisiana’s attempt to execute Willie Francis using the electric chair failed, the second was much more recent: In 2009, an Ohio execution team made 18 attempts over the course of two hours to find a vein to inject Romell Broom with lethal injection drugs. Then-Gov. Ted Strickland ultimately ordered them to give up. Broom remains on death row, locked in a court battle where he argues that trying to execute him a second time would be unconstitutional.
Campbell’s new appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Court, however, technically centers around a different issue: the use of midazolam, a sedative that’s meant to render an inmate unconscious.
As drug manufacturers and distributors become more and more reluctant to allow their wares to be used in executions, however, states are scrambling to find drugs they can use in lethal injections. That’s led midazolam’s popularity to skyrocket.
Evidence “from recent executions demonstrates the disturbing signs that prisoners remain sensate to severe pain, aware, and conscious following injection of 500 mg. of midazolam or more are ‘the rule,’ not ‘the exception,’” Campbell’s lawyers write in his latest appeal.
The pathos and problems of America’s death penalty were vividly on display yesterday when Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. Immediately after its failure Gov. John Kasich setJune 5, 2019, as a new execution date.
This plan for a second execution reveals a glaring inadequacy in the legal standards governing botched executions in the United States.
Campbell was tried and sentenced to die for murdering 18-year-old Charles Dials during a carjacking in 1997. After Campbell exhausted his legal appeals, he was denied clemency by the state parole board and the governor.
By the time the state got around to executing Campbell, he was far from the dangerous criminal of 20 years ago. As is the case with many of America’s death-row inmates, the passage of time had inflicted its own punishments.
The inmate Ohio strapped onto the gurney was a 69-year-old man afflicted with serious ailments, including lung cancer, COPD and respiratory failure. Campbell has had prostate cancer and a hip replacement. He needs daily oxygen treatments, uses a walker and is tethered to a colostomy bag.
Ohio officials were so aware of Campbell’s breathing problems that they provided a wedge-shaped pillow to raise his head, so he could breathe more easily as it set about to end his life.
Officials had been warned about the difficulty of finding a usable vein, and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction had problems finding Campbell’s veins during a recent exam.
Nonetheless, the state went ahead with his execution.
On Wednesday, the execution team tried four different places in Campbell’s arms and right leg to insert the needle through which to administer lethal drugs. After 30 minutesit stopped the execution and returned Campbell to death row.
Stopping an execution before it is completed is quite unusual, even if serious problems occur during the procedure. Those serious problems are not rare: Approximately 3 percent of American executions were botched during the 20th century, and 7 percent of lethal injections have been botched since its first use in 1982.
The first of those was Louisiana’s botched electrocution of Willie Francis, in which the current of electricity was not sufficient to kill him.
The second time an execution was stopped in mid-course occurred in Ohio during the 2009 effort to put Romell Broom to death. The execution team could not find a usable vein. After two hours of repeatedly poking and stabbing Broom’s arms and legs, they gave up.
In April 2014, when Oklahoma tried to executeClayton Lockett, officials also had problems finding a usable vein. They finally inserted the needle into a vein in his groin. When the lethal drugs were administered, Lockett struggled violently: The needle had dislodged from the vein into a muscle. Ultimately the execution was stopped before Lockett was killed. Sometime later he died of a heart attack while still strapped to the gurney.
Lockett’s death was one of the more gruesome in America’s history of botched executions, but it spared the state an ethical and legal question that faced officials in the Francis and Broom cases, and now faces Ohio officials who failed to execute Campbell. What should be done with him?
Should the state, having failed in its first execution attempt, be able to try again? Are we well served when we force the condemned to undergo the psychological torture of having to prepare to die, only to have to relive the experience of execution a second time?
The courts bent over backward to permit a second execution in the Francis and Broom cases. In the former, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the state would only be barred from going through with a second execution if it had intentionally botched the first. Even if the state were careless or negligent in its first execution attempt, the court said, it could still proceed with another. The state of Louisiana went ahead and put Francis to death.
In March 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Broom to stop his second execution. The court reaffirmed the Francis precedent and added that since the lethal chemicals had not begun to flow when his execution was halted, his “punishment” had not really begun. The United States Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal that a second execution would constitute double jeopardy and cruel and unusual punishment. Broom awaits his execution date on Ohio’s death row.
The fine legalisms of the Francis and Broom decisions give the state too much room for error in the serious business of putting someone to death. If the state is going to kill, it should have the burden of getting it right the first time. The law should allow no second chances.
I say this not out of sympathy for those whose heinous acts bring them to the death chamber, but because how a society punishes reveals its true character. Punishment tells us who we are.
When we punish cruelly we create “a class of punishers whose lives are wasted and their characters depraved so that as citizens they become almost as undesirable as the criminals they torture.”
Those are the words of a playwright, George Bernard Shaw, and, as Ohio considers what to do with Campbell, it should heed his warning. Ohio failed to execute Alva Campbell, despite all the warning signs of the risk of failure because of his weakened physical state. Now, Ohio’s citizens and public officials should be careful, lest in their eagerness to try a second time, they “become almost as undesirable” as the murderer they seek to execute.
Having failed to find a suitable vein in which to set an intravenous execution line, Ohio called off the scheduled November 15 execution of gravely ill and physically debilitated death-row prisoner, Alva Campbell . After execution personnel failed in four attempts to find a vein for the IV line, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr stopped the execution and Governor John Kasich granted Campbell a temporary reprieve. Kasich rescheduled Campbell’s execution for June 5, 2019. The execution was delayed for nearly an hour as executioners assessed Campbell’s veins, and then witnesses watched for another half hour as prison personnel used an ultraviolet light to probe Campbell’s arm for a vein, sticking him twice in the right arm, once in the left arm, and once in the left leg. Columbus Dispatch reporter Marty Schladen, a media witness to the execution, reported that, when he was stuck in the leg, “Campbell threw his head back and appeared to cry out in pain.” Campbell’s lead lawyer, assistant federal public defender David Stebbins said, “We had warned them for months that they were going to have this problem.” In court documents seeking to stay his execution, Campbell’s lawyers unsuccessfully argued that a combination of severe medical ailments and physical disabilities made it inappropriate for him to be executed. These afflictions include lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, respiratory failure, prostate cancer, and severe pneumonia, and Campbell relies on a colostomy bag that hangs outside his body, needs oxygen treatments four times a day, and requires a walker for even limited mobility. Following the reprieve, Stebbins questioned whether the state would be able to successfully execute Campbell. “He’s 69 years old and has all kinds of illnesses and his veins are a mess,” he said. “They’re just not going to get any better.” “This type of state-sponsored torture is not acceptable,” said ACLU of Ohio senior policy director Mike Brickner. “This marks the fifth botched execution for Ohio in recent years, and the second time the state could not complete an execution. This is not justice,” he said, “and this is not humane.” In the past eleven years, Ohio has also botched the executions of Joseph L. Clark, Christopher Newton, Romell Broom, and Dennis McGuire. In a video posted on the website of the Columbus Dispatch, reporter Marty Schladen, who was scheduled to witness the execution, said “I don’t think anything that happened today would make anybody sanguine about the death penalty in Ohio right now.”
The three-drug protocol typically begins with an anesthetic or sedative, followed by pancuronium bromide to paralyze the inmate and potassium chloride to stop the inmate’s heart. The first drug used varies by state and is listed above for each execution.
* volunteer – an inmate who waived ordinary appeals that remained at the time of his or her execution
~ foreign national
¥ white defendant executed for murder of black victim
A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday granted an Ohio death row inmate’s request to stay his potential execution, saying lower courts failed to properly weigh his intellectual abilities.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati said in its opinion that Ohio state courts incorrectly applied the law with regard to whether Andre Williams was intellectually disabled. It sent the case back to the district court to reconsider Williams’ argument that he was ineligible for the death penalty because of his low mental capabilities.
“We note that clearly established federal law … requires courts to consider all relevant evidence bearing on an individual’s intellectual functioning,” Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote in the ruling.
In 1989, Williams, now 48, was convicted and given the death penalty for the aggravated murder of George Melnick, 65, and the attempted rape and attempted murder of Katherine Melnick, also 65.
Williams appealed his death sentence, but an Ohio county court and the state’s 11th District Court of Appeals ruled against Williams’ right to an evidentiary hearing in the matter.
His attorneys argued that records showed Williams at the age of 15 had a “social age of 9” and an IQ of 67, which met the criteria for the U.S. Supreme Court’s standard of intellectual disability.
State attorneys countered Williams’ adult IQ was 75, based on a test administered in prison. That was within a five-point margin of error of the lowest score possible for allowing the death penalty.
Moore admonished the lower court for relying on intelligence tests that are imprecise and said the childhood IQ score “was directly relevant to the obviously extremely important issue of whether Williams should live or die based on his intellectual functioning.”
There is no date scheduled for Williams’ execution and a district judge has stayed all executions in the state until 2016 so Ohio can procure the drugs needed in the lethal injection.