Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Ohio mother sues over son’s execution; says procedure was cruel

Ohio mother sues over son’s execution; says procedure was cruel

UPDATE: 6:26 PM, Monday, July 2, 2007

Associated Press Writer

TOLEDO, Ohio Michael Manning counted down the days until he could see his brother’s killer strapped to a table in Ohio’s execution chamber.

He didn’t have any happiness until the date was set.

Now, more than a year after Joseph Clark’s execution was carried out, Manning stood side by side with Clark’s family on Monday, asking the state to change the way it conducts death sentences.

“Nobody should have to die a horrible death,” Manning said.

Clark’s mother, Irma Clark, sued the head of Ohio’s prisons on Monday, saying that the execution in May 2006 amounted to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

It took almost 90 minutes to complete the execution — about an hour longer than the normal 20 minutes.

Prison staff had problems finding a useable vein on Clark, and one vein they did use collapsed. The execution team also apparently tried to administer the lethal drugs through the original IV line by mistake, according to written accounts that the execution team is required to submit.

During the first injection attempt, Clark finally pushed himself up and said, “It don’t work.”

Manning, who was inside the death chamber, watched in disbelief.

He said he heard Clark moaning after prison staff closed the curtains.

“You could tell he was in pain,” Manning said. “My head was spinning.”

During the second attempt at finding a vein, Clark asked, “Can you just give me something by mouth to end this?”

Prisons spokeswoman Andrea Dean said she could not comment about the lawsuit. She did say that she did not know if Clark’s moans and groans were caused by pain.

“He didn’t appear to be in any physical distress,” she said.

The state, she said, changed its lethal injection process after Clark’s execution to ensure that veins can be found more carefully and quickly to avoid similar delays.

Execution teams now spend more time looking for veins and use a new method to make sure veins stay open once entryways are inserted.

But in May, an execution team again struggled to find veins in another inmate’s arm. Christopher Newton died nearly two hours after the scheduled start of his execution.

Clark, 57, was sentenced to die for killing gas station attendant David Manning in Toledo. Clark went on a nine-day spree of robberies in January 1984 to get money for drugs.

He shot and killed a convenience store clerk and then a day later killed Manning, who was newly married.

The lawsuit, filed in a Cincinnati federal court, also named as defendants the 12 members of the execution team and the warden of the prison where the execution took place.

Clark’s brother, Dennis Clark, said he was impressed that Michael Manning was standing up for the family. “That’s a unique type of man,” Clark said.

Manning said it was his duty.

The lawsuit is seeking at least $150,000 in damages. Clark’s family also wants the state to change its lethal injections, said their attorney, Alan Konop.

“A civilized society cannot tolerate in any way a slow, torturous execution,” Konop said.

In a separate lawsuit filed three years ago, a group of 15 inmates are challenging the state’s injection process, arguing the procedure may cause prisoners to suffer during an execution. Similar lawsuits in California and Missouri have put all executions on hold.

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