Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ohio Adopts New Execution Prep Procedure

Ohio has made some changes to its execution procedure in an effort to make the process more public and give inmates speedier access to attorneys in case something goes wrong when the inmate is being prepared for lethal injection.

Ohio has had a problem in a handful of cases while inserting IVs, including the botched 2009 execution of Romell Broom. The governor stopped the failed needle insertion procedure after two hours, according to the Associated Press.

Broom complained that he was stuck with needles at least 18 times and suffered intense pain. He has sued, arguing a second attempt to put him to death would be unconstitutionally cruel.

Under Ohio's new procedure, an attorney concerned about how an execution is going could use a death house phone to contact a fellow lawyer in a nearby building with access to a computer and cellphone to contact courts or other officials about the problem,according to a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

A lawyer who chooses to witness an execution now has immediate access to a phone if he or she believes something is going wrong. Judges will have the final say on problems, which will limit abuse of the system.

Although the prisoner will now be just a few feet from witnesses as the needles are inserted, a curtain will be drawn and the procedure will still be shown on closed-circuit televisions (CCT) in the witness viewing area. Using the CCT is meant to protect the anonymity of the executioners and to reduce the pressure they might feel having an audience watching them work, reported the Associated Press.

Even before the change, Ohio had one of the most transparent execution procedures in the country. Several states, such as Missouri, Texas and Virginia, show nothing of the insertion procedure and allow witnesses to watch only as the lethal chemicals begin to flow. In Georgia, officials allow one reporter to watch the needle insertion process through a window.

The new procedure will be used today for the execution Johnnie Baston.

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