U.S. Supreme Court Denies Challenge of Ohio Inmate Fighting State's Second Execution Attempt

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court elected to pass on Ohio inmate Romell Broom's state execution challenge. Broom has been arguing that the state's 2009 execution attempt inhibits its ability to try again; he claims that a second attempt would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of constitutional rights.

In 2009, officials stuck Broom 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. He was the first inmate in the U.S. to ever survive a state execution attempt.

"To force a man to prepare for his death — not once but twice — and the second time with the full knowledge of the error of the first, is an elevation of punishment repugnant to our Constitution," Broom's attorneys argued.

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

Earlier this year, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the state may try to kill Broom again. His appeal has reached the highest court in the land, and today's news keeps Broom's execution on the calendar. (Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan indicated that they would have preferred to grant the appeal and to hear the case in full.)

The Broom case is noteworthy also because he is not alone in eyeing an impending 2017 execution. Ronald Phillips will be the next Ohio inmate to be executed — in January, after a three-year hiatus on capital punishment in the state. The return to executions has been a hotly debated and extremely secretive operation for the past few years.

In 2014, Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire was killed in a controversial state execution that involved the drug midazolam. McGuire took more than 15 minutes to die, as he gasped audibly. That event tracks very closely to an Alabama execution last week. From ABC News: "Death row inmate Ronald Bert Smith Jr. coughed, and his upper body heaved repeatedly, for the 13 minutes as he was being sedated, and his arms appeared to move slightly after two tests were administered to determine consciousness.

"Smith's attorneys, who watched the execution, said in a statement Friday that the movements show that he 'was not anesthetized at any point during the agonizingly long procedure.'"

Phillips' own attempts to stay and/or challenge the execution have gone unfulfilled as Ohio sets about using a similar drug cocktail that Alabama used in last week's controversial execution.

About The Author

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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