Sunday, June 3, 2012

Inmate fights to avoid death

The Youngstown Vindicator
June 3, 2012

Mark Wayne Wiles paid the ultimate price on April 18. Wiles was executed at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville. It was Ohio’s first execution in five months because of legal wrangling about lethal-injection.

Wiles was convicted in the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old boy in 1985. He was out of prison on an aggravated-robbery conviction when he committed the Portage County murder.

Six weeks have passed since Wiles’ execution. Four more men have been executed nationwide and Ohio has another execution scheduled for this week.

Abdul Awkal is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Wednesday. Awkal shot and killed his wife and brother-in-law at the Cuyahoga County Courthouse during a divorce proceeding.

Clemency denied

Awkal was recently denied clemency by the Ohio Parole Board. Last week, his challenge to lethal injection was rejected by U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost, whose prior court order was behind the five month lull in executions.

Frost ruled that Awkal misunderstood Ohio’s long-running lethal injection lawsuit, which focused on the process of administering lethal drugs, and didn’t address Awkal’s concern that Ohio might execute a mentally ill inmate.

That’s not to say that Ohio’s death penalty procedure has been problem free.

Twice Ohio officials had to halt executions because something “went wrong.” In the case of Romell Broom, prison staff labored for two hours to establish an IV for administering the lethal injection. Finally, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland intervened and stopped the execution.

The concern with Awkal’s execution has nothing to do with procedure; it has to do with Awkal’s mental health.

A court initially found him not competent to stand trial because of his mental health. He was sent to a psychiatric hospital and placed on medication before the court found him competent for trial.

WOIO-TV in Cleveland reported that Awkal was recently evaluated by an expert who found that he does not have a rational understanding of the reasons for this punishment and did not meet the legal standard necessary for execution.

Awkal was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. He is reported to have had delusions that included his belief that he managed the U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he has been in direct communication with the CIA and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.


Four states have dropped the death penalty in recent years. California has put the issue on the ballot for this fall and Oregon’s governor has imposed a moratorium on carrying out executions.

The number of Americans who support the death penalty has fallen to 61 percent—down from 80 percent less than 20 years ago.

The U.S. Supreme Court has barred the execution of those who, because of insanity, have no rational understanding that death is imminent and why.

Last week, Texas, the most prolific state in terms of executions, stayed the execution of a paranoid-schizophrenic prone to delusions. He was being forced to take medication to remain competent for execution.

Although, in recent years, Ohio has been a leader in executions nationwide, capital punishment is on the decline.

The number of death sentences and the number of executions has tumbled. Public support for the death penalty has waned. Ohio would do well to closely examine the planned execution of Awkal. A cruel and merciless execution of a seriously mentally ill inmate may influence already declining public support for the ultimate penalty.

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