More than a botched execution

November 18, 2009

Romell Broom was tortured for more than two hours by an Ohio execution team trying to administer a lethal injection--but that's only the start of what's wrong with executions.

THE WRITING is on the wall for an end to the death penalty in America. But unfortunately, stubborn government officials around the country continue ignoring the overwhelming evidence proving that the system is unjust, racist, broken and barbaric.

I had George W. Bush, the Texecutioner when he was governor of Texas, at the top of my list of officials willing to say or do anything to maintain the status quo and public confidence in a system that should be dismantled.

He executed over 150 men and women in a short five-year span. And when the validity of some of those executions came under fire, Bush foolishly proclaimed that he was positive "every one of them was guilty," because he personally reviewed each case. Anyone who knows anything about the criminal justice system knows that it's impossible for him to be so certain.

But Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has taken this stubbornness to an all-time low.

On September 15, 2009, an execution team at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, tortured Romell Broom for over two hours, trying to administer the drugs used to kill Ohio's condemned prisoners.

Columnist: Stanley Howard

Stanley Howard is a former Illinois death row prisoner who was exonerated and pardoned by former Gov. George Ryan in 2003. He was a victim of police torture carried out by Chicago police, and from behind bars, he formed the Death Row 10 with other victims of torture. Though still imprisoned unjustly, Stanley works with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and writes regularly for its newsletter, the New Abolitionist. You can write to him at: Stanley Howard N-71620, 2600 N. Brinton Ave., Dixon, IL 61021.

Numerous attempts were made to find a suitable vein as the 53-year-old Broom winced in pain each time the needle pierced his skin. The pain got so unbearable that Broom actually tried to assist his executioners by pointing out veins. He even turned over on his side to provide access to other parts of his body.

When I was on Illinois death row, I had my mind set on being disruptive, and making it hard as hell for them to execute me. I wasn't going to participate in the process in any manner. I actually dreamed of trying to stop them from executing me--fighting and screaming that I was innocent.

I cannot imagine lying on a gurney in the death chamber, most likely an emotional wreck and on the verge of going into shock, having to help my executioners to execute me. But if I were being physically and mentally tortured--like Broome and Stanley Tookie Williams, who was executed in California in 2005--I probably would help to accelerate the process to stop from being tortured to death.

Gov. Strickland issued a temporary reprieve due to the failed attempt, and Broom's lawyers petitioned the courts to stop Ohio from getting a second chance at taking his life. The lawyers are arguing that a second attempt would amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

THIS IS the third botched execution Ohio has had in recent years, and there's no guarantee that they will not botch another attempt at taking Broom's life, or botch one of their upcoming executions.

Because of these possibilities, Strickland promised to look into the circumstances surrounding Broom's failed execution, but believes it isn't necessary to review the entire process. He decided to delay four other scheduled executions until the problems, if there are any problems, are resolved.

Prosecutors and others point to the cruelty of Broom's alleged crime, the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl, to justify going forth with the second attempt--regardless of how cruel and inhumane it would be.

There's no doubt that punishment must be levied against the perpetrators of such atrocities. But it's sad that we live in a society where there are more mandatory regulations for euthanizing animals than there are for executing human beings. It's hard to believe that in America--the so-called "human rights champion of the world"--we are willing to go to any cruel length to obtain vengeance and retribution against such perpetrators.

Gov. Strickland should not turn a blind eye to this barbaric policy and practice of state-sanctioned murder. He should come to the realization that there is no humane way of killing a healthy human being.

And because it's no longer politically dangerous for a governor to take action to prevent a miscarriage of justice or to show compassion in death penalty cases, Strickland should commute the death sentences of Broom and all of Ohio's death row prisoners.

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