Ohio's Second Execution of Romell Broom Stayed for 30 Days by Federal Judge - How Do You Think He'll Rule?

Death Row inmate Romell Broom was setting in the courtroom this week as his attorneys stood ready for an evidentiary hearing that would take a couple of days in front of Federal District Judge Gregory Frost.  Romell Broom sat there, ready to testify. Think of it -- Broom left his small Death Row cell to set in that public courtroom, look out at all those faces and tell about the pain and suffering he experienced on that gurney as his executioners spent over two hours trying to find a vein in which a needle could be inserted.  We've posted about this earlier - including the media reports that Broom was "sobbing in pain" that day.  The hearing was based upon Broom's motion.  Romell Broom is seeking to stop his scheduled execution by Ohio by arguing that it is unconstitutional for the State of Ohio to try and kill him a second time after its horrific failure to execute him earlier this year by lethal injection.  Judge Frost doesn't hold a evidentiary hearing  Surprising some, Judge Frost took the bench and soon thereafter advised everyone that he wouldn't be hearing testimony in the Broom matter.  Nope.  According to Judge Frost, he's really able to decide only a narrow question of the law.  No fact-finding is needed, so no testimony would be taken.  Attorneys were asked to file their arguments addressing the issue, and the Judge would rule based upon the paper.  Judge Frost did give everyone a big hint -- he's stated that he doesn't see how Broom can circumvent the decision made by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and denied review by the United States Supreme Court earlier this week in the Biros case.  Ken Biros died as a guinea pig to the new Ohio single-drug injection method.  What is Judge Frost Going to Decide? All that Judge Frost is going to answer is the limited question of whether or not the State of Ohio, after it has failed to execute an inmate, has the right under law to try again.  And while it is critical to consider the pain and suffering that Romell Broom experienced on that gurney that day, Frost is saying that he's not hearing anything on pain because of the federal appellate court ruling Monday in Kenneth Biros's case. On Monday, Biros unsuccessfully argued that the method of execution Ohio would be using hadn't been vetted and Ohio couldn't show that the execution method couldn't cause severe pain.  Severe pain during an execution violates the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment of the U.S. Constitution.  The appellate court specifically stated that Biros had provided no evidence on pain.  Arguing about the pain that might occur during an untested method of execution seems easily distinguishable from an argument concerning the two bites at the apple situation facing Broom.  Yet Judge Frost is moving forward without any evidence on pain -- there was no evidence on pain in the Biros appellate record and he's prohibiting having Romell Broom take the stand in the present case.  Given this factual vacuum and the precedent of Louisiana v. Resweber, 329 US 459 (1946), where the failure of an electric chair during an initial execution did not prevent the second execution from proceeding, what Judge Frost is going to rule probably isn't that hard to predict regardless of whether your perspective is based upon double jeopardy, due process, or cruel and unusual punishment.

Media Coverage Increasing On the Story of Cameron Todd Willingham - Another Innocent Man Executed

Apparently, Cy Vance's great article in HuffPo on the tragic story of Cameron Todd Willingham (see last week's post) was just the start.  More and more stories are appearing across the country, covering the brutal fact that a man was killed by the State of Texas for the arson murder of his children and only after his death did scientific evidence substantiate what Willingham had been claiming the whole time:  it wasn't arson.  He didn't commit murder.  Specifically, he did not commit filicide.

Several of these writings deserve your time, particularly:

The op-ed piece in yesterday's New York Times, written by Bob Herbert, where he writes:

"... The report is devastating, the kind of disclosure that should send a tremor through one's conscience. There was absolutely no scientific basis for determining that the fire was arson, said [arson expert Craig] Beyler. No basis at all...."

The response by editor Michael Landauer in the Dallas Morning News to the statements made by the prosecutor in the Willingham case (who is now a sitting judge in Texas):

"Well, he was a foul-mouthed wife beater.  That seems to be the response of the chief prosecutor of the Willingham case...."

And, the long, in-depth investigative piece by in the New Yorker, which goes into great detail and obviously took great effort both in investigation, research, and writing, published this month and written by David Grann, who provides Cameron Todd Williingham's last words:

"...'The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for twelve years for something I did not do. From God's dust I came and to dust I will return, so the Earth shall become my throne.' "

This coverage is important and the more discussion is had in this country regarding the tragedy of Cameron Todd Willingham's case, the better.  One can only wonder why it took from 2004, when Willingham was executed until now -- five years later -- for this travesty to come into the national spotlight.

Let's all hope that somehow, this brings some peace to the Willingham family.  The arson was a terrible accident.  Those babies did not die at the hand of their father, and this confirmation should bring some relief to these folk. 

The injustice of the execution?  Our prayers and our compassion go out to them as they deal with this reality. 

In Texas Justice Keller's Trial, What if the US Supreme Court had ruled the other way?

The San Antonio Express-News has provided a video containing snippets from the closing arguments in the trial of Sharon Keller, Chief Justice of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (the highest criminal court in that state).   It bears viewing, and it's only 2:24 minutes long.

Listening to it, you'll hear an attorney's deep voice talking about the death penalty and how capital punishment depends upon a public trust that there will not be a erroneous death sentence.

As you'll recall (we've posted the details of Justice Keller's trial here and the short video gives a synopsis as well), Justice Keller is being challenged for denying the attorneys for Death Row inmate Michael Richard the ability to file a motion to stay execution on the day he was scheduled to die  - they were running late, and Justice Keller admits to telling her clerk to respond that "the clerk's office closes at 5."  The motion to stay execution didn't get filed on time, and Mr. Richard was executed by lethal injection at 6 pm that day.

Mind you, that same morning -- the very same morning -- the US Supreme Court had granted writ in a Kentucky case which put lethal injection as a method of execution under scrutiny.  Keller's supporters point out that six months later, the Supreme Court decided that this method was not "cruel and unusual" and accordingly, Richard would have been executed anyway.

Here's the question that I'm not seeing: what if the US Supreme Court has RULED THE OTHER WAY in the Kentucky case?  Then, would we have a very clear example of the erroneous execution that is referenced in the closing arguments of Justice Keller's trial?

Last week, John Marek was Executed by the State of Florida

John Marek died last Wednesday due to lethal injection at the hands of the State of Florida.  His hard-working defense attorney -- who had filed last minute appeals to the Supreme Court trying to keep Marek alive -- didn't go to watch.  Who can blame him. 

It was only a couple of weeks ago that we posted on the eleventh hour efforts to save Marek's life.   There was evidence that he wasn't the killer in this case.  There were procedural concerns regarding recusal of a lower court judge.  There is always the bigger picture -- the controversy over the constitutionality of the death penalty as well as the all-too-often forgotten concept of mercy. 

No matter.  There was no reconsideration of Marek's case by any of the powers that be and the sentence of punishment by death was carried out.   On August 19, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Marek's application for a stay of execution so they could consider his legal arguments.   And, minutes before the execution, it was confirmed that the Governor of Florida would not come forward to stop things. 

John Marek's Death was not obviously horrific, as other lethal injection executions have been.

It is reported that John Marek did not twitch or convulse or otherwise evidence any improprieties during the 13 minutes it took him to die.  Of course, we've already discussed how the Florida drug combo actually paralyzes the body, so observers wouldn't know if Marek was alive and aware for most of those 13 minutes but unable to move or speak ... or if he was in pain.  Many argue that the lethal injection method of killing someone is easier on the observers but may be very cruel to the dying inmate. 

Marek's Last Meal and Last Words

John Marek had a lettuce, tomato, and bacon sandwich (mayo, wheat bread) with onion rings and french fries -- and a Dr. Pepper -- for his last meal.   His last words were of his Christian faith, as he spoke "Jesus remember us sinners," followed by the Lord's Prayer --- and it is always ironic to remember that Christ, too, suffered execution by the government those many years ago. 

Marek lived in a small Death Row cell for 26 years. 

May he, and his loved ones, and the loved ones of murder victim Adela Marie Simmons, -- and that hard-working defense attorney who tried so hard and so well -- all find peace. 

 
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