Ohio Supreme Court Rules That State Can Try to Execute Romell Broom Again

In a 4-3 ruling Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the state may try to execute Romell Broom for a second time.

In 2009, Broom became the first person in the country to survive the death penalty via lethal injection. At the time, his lawyer, Tim Sweeney, said that the state was unable to find a vein to plant intravenous shunts. Officials stuck him with needles 18 times, with no success. "I tried to assist them by helping to tie my own arm," Broom stated in an affidavit days later.

Broom, a Cleveland man, was convicted of murdering a 14-year-old East Cleveland girl named Tryna Middleton in 1984.

Justice Judith Lanzinger wrote this week that the 2009 attempt wasn't really a failed execution, because the lethal drugs hadn't entered Broom's system. From the majority opinion: "Because the attempt did not proceed to the point of injection of a lethal drug into the IV line, jeopardy never attached." The court refused to hear Broom's claim that a second attempt would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of constitutional rights.

Writing in dissent, here's Justice Judith French: "The majority’s decision to deny Romell Broom an evidentiary hearing on his Eighth Amendment claim is wrong on the law, wrong on the facts, and inconsistent in its reasoning. If the state cannot explain why the Broom execution went wrong, then the state cannot guarantee that the outcome will be different next time."

Scene spoke with Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, in 2009, on the subject of Broom's botched execution attempt and the state's strict privacy protocol. He said: "With the fact that these mistakes happen, the explanation of 'Trust me, we're doing this right,' loses credibility. There needs to be access, observation, to see what's claimed is what really happens."

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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