This much we know: They really want to kill him this time.
"Him" is Romell Broom, and "they" is the state of Ohio and specifically the Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray and his staff.
Broom, you remember, is the guy they couldn't kill. For two hours last September, the murder team at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville tried to stick needles for an IV into various parts of Broom's body. Here's a bit of what I wrote that day.
So they began trying to kill Romell Broom at around 1:00 this afternoon. Two hours later, they were still trying. AP describes how the worked. They'd tried his arms, his legs, his arms again. He tried to help, he grimaced in pain. They took a break.
Broom's lawyers were frantically trying to reach the governor, the Ohio Supreme Court, a state court, and a federal judge. This was torture, and there was no end in sight other than midnight when the execution warrant would expire.
Finally, someone got through and the Governor called a halt. Enough. Really, quite extraordinary that last minute reprieve. Like something out of the movies. Here's what he said:
1. Romell Broom is currently in the custody of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation, has been sentenced to death, and the Ohio Supreme Court scheduled his execution for September 15, 2009.So they tried to kill him, they failed, and they're to try again next week. Maybe.
2. Difficulties in administering the execution protocol necessitate a temporary reprieve to allow the Department to recommend appropriate next steps to me.
3. Ohio Revised Code Section 2967.08 provides that the Governor may grant a reprieve for a definite time to a person under sentence of death, with or without notices or application.
4. Accordingly, I direct that the sentence of death for Romell Broom be reprieved until September 22, 2009.
5. Mr. Broom should remain incarcerated in the custody of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The Department should carry out Mr. Broom’s sentence on that day unless further reprieve or clemency is granted.
6. I signed this Warrant of Reprieve on September 15, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.
Ted Strickland, Governor
Well, "next week" got deferred. It's now coming up on a year, and Broom's still with us and the state still wants to kill him.
Broom filed suit in federal court.
It's double jeopardy. It's cruel and unusual punishment. The procedures are faulty. You can't do it.
Nonsense, the State said.
Louisiana got to kill Willie Francis. We can kill Broom.
That's not entirely fair of me. The state's argument was more complicated than that. The Willie Francis case really isn't much like Broom's. In any event, much has changed since the Supreme Court decided Louisiana could strap Francis into the chair a second time. And Broom has additional issues.
Still, the state said it could take another shot at killing Broom and asked the judge to throw out his case. Yesterday, the judge refused. He apparently dismissed part of the case (I assuming having to do with Ohio's general killing protocol, which the judge said earlier in the week was constitutional; but I've been having trouble downloading and reading a copy of the court's ruling, so it's hard to be sure. When I get hold of it, I'll update.) But he kept the guts of the claims alive.
Specifically, Frost left open to further legal debate questions about whether a second execution attempt would violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment." He also allowed to stand questions about whether Broom was inappropriately denied access to his attorneys and the courts during the two-hour Death House ordeal last year at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.
It's preliminary. The case goes forward. There's more to come. But for now, the state is frustrated. Despite their best efforts, Romell Broom remains alive.
And you know, the sky hasn't fallen. The Republic is not doomed. Ohio was in economic turmoil and still is. Nothing much has changed.
They could just give it up.
Don't hold your breath.