Ohio Supreme Court to decide fate of only living U.S. execution survivor

Lawyers argue the government cannot be trusted to end life humanely.

By Matt Bradwell
The electric chair used to put to death Bruno Hauptmann, who was convicted of kidnapping Charles Lindbergh's baby. (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg)
The electric chair used to put to death Bruno Hauptmann, who was convicted of kidnapping Charles Lindbergh's baby. (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg) | License Photo

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 3 (UPI) -- Nearly five years after executioners failed to kill Romell Broom, the Ohio Supreme Court will decide whether or not a second attempt would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Broom, 57, was found guilty of the 1984 rape and murder of 14-year-old Tryna Middleton and subsequently sentenced to death. On September 15, 2009, authorities spent at least an hour attempting to penetrate a suitable vein to inject execution chemicals, finding nothing but muscle tissue and bone.


Broom's lawyers argue a second attempt to execute him would be both double jeopardy and cruel and unusual punishment.

"Romell Broom has a constitutional right not to be subjected to more than one execution attempt under the circumstances present in this case including the fact that significant psychological and physical pain have already been inflicted on him in a first attempt," Broom's lawyer's wrote in a brief.

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They went on to argue the current state of government cannot be trusted to handle matters as sensitive as human life.

"Once the phrase 'close enough for government work' was a reference to high quality and integrity. In current usage it is a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment of government failure to meet acceptable standards. The way in which a capital sentence is carried out should not lend validity to doubt and distrust of the legal system or its mechanisms."


The state argues that since no deadly chemicals were introduced to Broom's system, he has not undergone an execution attempt. Additionally, as they are seeking no second trial, they argue the double jeopardy charge is moot.

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Executions in Ohio are on indefinite hold following eye-witness reports that death row inmate Dennis McGuire writhed and made noises during an unexpectedly prolonged execution earlier this year. Oklahoma has also suspended executions after Clayton Lockett died of a heart attack over 40 minutes after a botched execution attempt.

Broom is the only living execution survivor in the United States.

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