COLUMBUS, Ohio — An attorney for an Ohio inmate whose lethal injection failed this week asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to halt an unprecedented second execution attempt, and cited in a separate affidavit the inmate's claims that executioners hit muscle and bone when they tried to find a vein suitable for injection.
Tim Sweeney, an attorney for Romell Broom, also filed lawsuits in federal district court and in the Ohio Supreme Court in Columbus on Friday arguing that a second execution attempt, scheduled for Tuesday, would violate Broom's civil rights. If unsuccessful in achieving clemency for Broom, Sweeney will argue that he shouldn't be executed until a new procedure can be put in place that ensures what happened on Tuesday won't be repeated. And trying again only a week later would be "unconscionable," Sweeney said.
Broom, who told his attorneys he was pricked as many as 18 times on Tuesday as prison staff tried to find a suitable vein, had missed a deadline to become part of an ongoing federal case challenging the constitutionality of Ohio's lethal injection procedure. Sweeney asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the second execution attempt so it can review that decision in light of Tuesday's failed attempt.
Broom was convicted in the 1984 rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl after abducting her at knifepoint while she was walking home from a football game with friends.
"This is three guys in three years that have had these types of serious problems," said Sweeney, referring to Broom's attempt as well as two other executions that were delayed after trouble finding a suitable vein. "There's a pattern here now in this state."
In an affidavit from Broom that was to be submitted as evidence in the federal district court filing, Broom said officials first tried three separate times to access a suitable vein in the middle of both arms.
He said nurses told him to take a break after those six attempts, after which the nurse tried twice to access veins in the left arm.
"She must have hit a muscle because the pain made me scream out loud," Broom said. "The male nurse attempted three times to access veins in my right arm. The first time the male nurse successfully accessed a vein in my right arm. He attempted to insert the IV, but he lost it and blood started to run down my right arm. The female nurse left the room. The correction officer asked her if she was OK. She responded, 'No' and walked out.
"The death squad lead made a statement to the effect that this was hard on everyone and suggested that they take another break."
Officials later moved to Broom's feet to find an accessible vein.
"During this attempt, the needle hit my bone and was very painful. I screamed," Broom said in the affidavit.
Gov. Ted Strickland granted a one-week reprieve to Broom on Tuesday after execution staff struggled for two hours to find a vein that would not collapse when a saline solution was administered. Roughly an hour after staff began to attempt to find a vein, Broom tried to help them by turning over on his left side, flexing his arm, and opening and closing his fingers in an effort to get a suitable vein to rise.
On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed a public records request with the state in an attempt to learn information about the preparation for the first attempt, details about the attempt and information about preparations for the next scheduled attempt. The Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers sent Strickland a letter Thursday asking him to place a moratorium on Ohio executions given Tuesday's events.
A prisons spokeswoman said Thursday that officials at the Southern Ohio Corrections Facility where Broom is being kept in a cell in the infirmary in preparation for next week's attempt are monitoring how much he's drinking.
Dehydration could make it more difficult to find veins, but the spokeswoman said there's no evidence that's what caused Tuesday's problems.
In the affidavit, Broom said that on Monday, the day before the execution attempt, he drank seven cups of coffee, five cups of water and three cups of Kool-Aid.