Thursday, 31 May 2007

OHIO: Victim's relative sides with killer's kin

OHIO: Victim's relative sides with killer's kin

article published Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Witness says 2006 Clark execution was a violation of Constitution

Joseph Lewis Clark, left, was put to death for the murder of David Manning, brother of Michael Manning, at right.

COLUMBUS - A former Toledo man said yesterday he is cooperating with a federal lawsuit to be filed next month against the state by the family of the man executed last year for murdering his brother, saying the execution he personally witnessed was cruel and unusual punishment.

Michael Manning, a death-penalty supporter, said he also plans to ask Gov. Ted Strickland to enact a moratorium on Ohio executions until problems seen in the execution of Joseph Lewis Clark on May 2, 2006, and Christopher Newton, a Huron, Ohio, native, on Thursday are corrected. In both cases, the executions were delayed while prison personnel struggled to find usable veins through which the lethal cocktail of drugs could flow.

"What happened was cruel and unusual punishment, which is against the Constitution of the United States," said Mr. Manning, now living in Marion, Ohio. "We all heard [Clark] moaning and groaning. ... The executions should be temporarily halted until they come to grips with how to insert the needles for accuracy. I believe I counted 10 to 15 times that Clark was stuck with a needle, and I don't know how many times there were after the curtain was closed."

Mr. Manning's 23-year-old brother, David, was shot by Clark in 1984 during a robbery of a Toledo gas station, part of a drug-fueled, nine-day crime spree that also claimed the life of Donald B. Harris, 21. Clark received a separate life sentence for the Harris murder.

Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said the governor has no plans to issue a moratorium.

"The governor's understanding regarding the Newton execution procedure is that it worked the way it was supposed to," he said. "Out of abundance of caution, as much time as was needed was taken before the execution to ensure there would not be problems similar to that of the Clark case."

On May 2, 2006, the execution team at the Southern Ohio Correctional Institution at Lucasville struggled for 25 minutes to find usable veins in Clark, a 57-year-old Toledo native with a long history of intravenous drug use. After the execution process began, a previously calm Clark suddenly raised and shook his head, repeatedly insisting, "It don't work." The sole vein being used to deliver the drugs had apparently collapsed.

The execution team closed the curtain separating the chamber from witnesses, but witnesses could hear Clark moaning from behind the curtain for several minutes. After about 35 minutes, the curtain was reopened and the execution proceeded without another hitch.

The family of Clark plans to file a federal suit against the state next month.

"There are other witnesses who can confirm what he said," said Alan Konop, the Clarks' attorney.

"He's an important witness. I thought it was quite admirable that he took this position, considering his brother was one of the victims."

Mr. Manning said he didn't speak out immediately after the execution because the administrator of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's Office of Victim Services had told the three Manning family witnesses to be consistent in their statements.

Karen Ho, the administrator, said yesterday her role was only to provide a path for family members to be heard through the clemency and execution processes, not to advise them what or what not to say.

"I stand by what I said at the time, that justice was served," said Mary Ellen (Manning) Gordon, who has remarried since her husband was murdered.

"They could improve the process to make sure the injection sites are clearer so that the drugs flow better, but I think Clark went more peacefully than David did," she said.

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