'State-Sponsored Torture': Ohio Grants Temporary Reprieve After Botched Execution

Several anti-death penalty activists and groups, including Ohioans to Stop Executions, have protested the planned execution of Alva Campbell Jr. (Photo: Death Penalty Action/Twitter)

'State-Sponsored Torture': Ohio Grants Temporary Reprieve After Botched Execution

Human rights advocates censured the state for making "a spectacle of a man's life," declaring "the cruel and unusual practice of lethal injection must end"

After poking and prodding at a sickly inmate, 69-year-old Alva Campbell Jr., for about 25 minutes, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections temporarily called off his execution.

Medical staff "spent at least 25 minutes in an unsuccessful effort to find a suitable vein in Campbell's arms and right leg," for lethal injection, the Dayton Daily News reports. "While this was happening, Campbell lay in a partially sitting position on a prison gurney in the execution chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. Campbell shed tears and shook hands with two of the medical staffers attending to him after they were unable to proceed with the execution process."

Prison officials had been warned about Campbell's numerous health issues, and even used a wedge-shaped pillow to help him breathe while officials attempted to kill him. As Esquire's Charlie Pierce wrote--noting the extensive abuse Campbell experienced as a child--"the state of Ohio could find no way to give Alva Campbell comfort as a child, but, now that he's dying, the state of Ohio is doing everything it can to make sure he's comfortable while the state of Ohio is killing him."

Despite Cambpell's reprieve today, Ohio Gov. John Kasich--who denied (pdf) clemency for Campbell--has reportedly rescheduled his execution for June 15, 2019.

Sister Helen Prejean, a well known anti-death penalty activist who has vocally opposed Campbell's execution, turned to Twitter on Wednesday to urge Kasich to permanently call off his death sentence.

Human rights advocates and death penalty opponents quickly censured state leaders and prison officials for attempting the aborted execution, and called on the state to immediately outlaw the practice of executing prisoners.

"We cannot allow this practice to continue. Death row inmates can be held accountable and society can be kept safe without executions."
--Kevin Werner, Ohioans to Stop Executions

"This traumatic series of events could have been easily avoided," noted Kevin Werner of Ohioans to Stop Executions. "Campbell's health concerns were well documented, and everybody knew this was going to pose issues."

"We cannot allow this practice to continue," Werner concluded. "Death row inmates can be held accountable and society can be kept safe without executions."

"This is not justice, and this is not humane," said ACLU of Ohio senior policy director Mike Brickner, demanding that the state place a moratorium on "this type of state-sponsored torture."

"Today the state made a spectacle of a man's life, and the cruel and unusual practice of lethal injection must end," Brickner added. "This marks the fifth botched execution for Ohio in recent years, and the second time the state could not complete an execution."

The last time the state failed to execute a prisoner was Romell Broom in 2009. Over the course of more than two hours, medical staff made 18 attempts to insert needles to inject Broom with the deadly cocktail of drugs. Last year, he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping to stop the state from a second execution attempt. The court declined to hear the case.

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