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Published: Friday, 5/12/2006

Lethal injection, recent Ohio execution discussed on 'Editors'

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

The controversy about lethal injection - including whether trained medical personnel, such as doctors, should be involved and if the process is a humane way to kill a condemned inmate - is the topic on The Editors this week.

"My contention has always been that lethal injection is a medical charade, meaning it's designed to simulate a medical procedure but it falls far short," Dr. Jonathan Groner, an associate professor of surgery at Ohio State University, said during a taping of the television program.

Dr. Groner said Joseph Lewis Clark was "clearly being tortured to death" when it took Ohio nearly 90 minutes to execute him May 2 for the fatal shooting of David Manning during a robbery of a gas station in 1984.

Toledo attorney Richard Kerger, who has represented death row inmates and witnessed a client's electric chair execution in Alabama, said the Clark case indicates "we have clear and undisputed evidence [execution] is cruel and unusual."

Clark, 57, was the 21st man to be executed in Ohio and the first from Lucas County after Ohio resumed use of the death penalty in 1999.

He was declared dead 86 minutes after the official start of his execution, a process that typically takes about 10 minutes.

Prison personnel worked for 25 minutes to find a usable vein; Clark's veins were scarred after years of intravenous drug use. After the process began, Clark five times said, "It don't work."

The execution team, a few of whom have some medical technician training, closed a curtain between Clark and the witnesses.

When it reopened, Clark appeared to have fallen asleep. He then was killed by injection, which involves three drugs - the first to sedate, the second to stop breathing, and the third to stop the heart.

According to state prison records obtained by the Associated Press, Clark asked prison staff to find another way to kill him.

"Can you just give me something by mouth to end this?" Clark asked members of the execution team as they struggled to find a way to insert the intravenous line.

After finally attaching a shunt to Clark's right arm, the execution team apparently tried to administer the lethal drugs through the original IV line by mistake, according to written accounts of the execution.

A member of the execution team said he realized a problem "upon noticing the wrong reaction by inmate Clark again," the member's statement said.

"I notice I had picked up the wrong line. Once I switched to proper IV line execution was completed successfully."

Dr. Groner and Mr. Kerger also discuss other forms of execution, such as the guillotine and the firing squad.

The Editors will be broadcast at 9 tonight on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on WBGU, Channel 27.



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