Effort to Kill Ohio Inmate Postponed After Botched Execution Attempt


The scheduled execution of Romell Broom in Ohio was delayed for a week after prison staff unsuccessfully attempted to lethally inject him for over two hours.

On September 15, 2009, an execution team in Ohio struggled for over two hours to find suitable veins in the arms and legs of Romell Broom but were unable to do so, despite Mr. Broom’s efforts to help them. Governor Ted Strickland issued a reprieve delaying the execution for one week, as the botched execution attempt raises serious questions about the state’s ability to properly administer lethal injection.

Beginning at around 2 p.m., the execution team began sticking Mr. Broom’s arms with needles to find a vein for administration of the lethal injection drugs. Mr. Broom tried to help them by turning onto his side, sliding rubber tubing up his left arm, and moving his arm up and down while flexing and opening his fingers.

The team accessed a vein, but it collapsed when they tried to inject saline, bringing Mr. Broom to tears. He turned onto his back, covered his face with both hands, and sobbed.

Mr. Broom was given toilet paper to wipe his face and brow. He was seated upright on the table as the execution team tried to insert shunts into his legs, which caused him to grimace in pain.

After over two hours of trying to find a vein, the execution team became frustrated, according to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Terry Collins. Collins told reporters that the team “continued to do a job that most wouldn’t do or couldn’t do.”

Ultimately, the governor granted a one-week reprieve, which gives Ohio officials until 10 a.m. on Tuesday, September 22, to figure out how to kill Mr. Broom without torturing him in violation of the Constitution.

This is the third time in as many years that Ohio prison officials have had trouble finding veins to lethally inject a condemned person. In May 2007, the execution team took 90 minutes to find a vein on Christopher Newton, who took twice as long as most inmates to die after the drugs were administered.

In May 2006, prison workers took 40 minutes to insert a shunt into Joseph Clark, who cried out that the injection “isn’t working” before he was put to death.

A number of other states, including Florida and Oklahoma, have botched lethal injection executions in recent years, using lengthy, often agonizing procedures to access a vein and failing to correctly administer anesthesia to the inmate, resulting in an excruciatingly painful and torturous death.

Experts cite the use of untrained, unqualified prison employees, inadequate equipment, and unclear protocols as the main contributing factors to botched executions. Alabama’s lethal injection protocol is similar to Ohio’s, which puts the state at risk for similar problems in administering lethal injections.

On September 18, 2009, Mr. Broom’s execution was stayed by a federal district court until September 28. On September 22, 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost’s order moved a hearing on whether the state can constitutionally try a second time to execute Mr. Broom from September 28 to November 30, and was unopposed by the state.

On October 5, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit stayed the execution of Ohio death row inmate Lawrence Reynolds, citing the state’s “serious and troubling difficulties in executing at least three inmates, most recently Romell Broom.” The appeals court remanded Mr. Reynolds’s case to the federal trial judge who will hear evidence about Ohio’s lethal injection protocol in Romell Broom’s case.