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Published: Tuesday, 5/2/2006

Clark succumbs to lethal injection after more than one hour delay

BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

LUCASVILLE - Joseph Lewis Clark, a Toledo native responsible for the deaths of two city men he shot and killed in robberies more than two decades ago, died today of lethal injection at 11:26 a.m.

But Clark s execution was delayed by nearly an hour and a half because the execution team was unable to find a working vein to deliver the intravenous injection that would kill him.

Clark, a 57-year-old great-grandfather, was supposed to die shortly after 10 a.m. today at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility from a trio of drugs that was supposed to first put him to sleep, then stopped his breathing, and finally stop his heart.

About 25 minutes after the process began, however, authorities apparently had not found a good vein to deliver the injection. The vein they were injecting apparently collapsed.

Clark bent his upper torso upwards, looked at those in the witness room outside the execution chamber, and repeatedly said: It s not working.

At that point, the curtains across the windows to the room were drawn closed while authorities continued to try and find a working vein, according to Andrea Dean, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

Ms. Dean insisted that Clark did not experience any discomfort, but those in the witness room could hear his moans and groans through the window behind the closed curtain.

After they were unable to find any working vein on his right arm, the execution team delivered the fatal injection through one IV on his left arm. The injection began at 11:17 a.m. and Clark was already asleep when the curtains to the witness room reopened. He was pronounced dead at 11:26 a.m.

He became the 21st person to die by lethal injection in Ohio and the first from Lucas County.

Before the execution process began, Clark apologized to the victims families and preached against the dangers of drug use.

He then concluded with the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: free at last, free at last, thank almighty God, I m free at last.

The execution process then began, but the problems soon became apparent.

Clark was convicted of the Jan. 13, 1984, slaying of David Manning, a 23-year-old husband and father, who was shot at a Clark gas station at 3070 Airport Hwy. in South Toledo. He received a life sentence for killing another store clerk, Donald Harris, 21, the night before at Lawson s Store, 4401 Hill Ave. He was arrested after shooting a third man, Robert Roloff, during a holdup at a bank ATM in Toledo, three days after shooting Mr. Manning.

Ms. Dean described Clark as being in a somber mood this morning after sleeping about three hours. He spent his last night of life watching television and speaking on the telephone with his mother and other members of his family, including his son, Clifford Stallworth, imprisoned on drug charges at the Allen Correctional Institution at Lima.

He skipped the breakfast served to all other inmates, preferring orange juice, Pepsi, and cigarettes instead. He also declined any visitors this morning. He had been expected to meet with his attorneys and spiritual advisor.

The execution proceeded despite the issuance of a stay by a federal court in the scheduled execution of a Hamilton County man. That inmate has a lawsuit pending that challenges the constitutionality of the lethal injection protocol, arguing that the choice of drug could lead to cruel and unusual punishment.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.



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