Executioners in Ohio Spent More Than an Hour Trying to Kill an Ailing Death Row Inmate Before Giving Up

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Officials with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction abruptly called off—and subsequently rescheduled—the execution of Alva Campbell on Wednesday after earlier arranging special accommodations that would allow the ailing inmate to breathe while they executed him by lethal injection.

It was only the third time in modern U.S. history that an execution has ever been stopped midway through the process, according to The New York Times. Campbell, who was condemned to die for the 1997 carjacking and murder of teenager Charles Dials, is now scheduled to be executed on June 5, 2019.

According to the Associated Press:

The execution team worked for about 25 minutes to find a vein in Campbell’s arms or his right lower leg as he lay on a gurney in the death chamber. Team members used a locating device with an ultraviolet light while comforting Campbell by patting him on the arm and shoulder.


At one point, executioners believed they’d found a suitable vein, only to be instructed to remove the already-inserted needle and try again.

Speaking with the AP, Campbell’s attorney said his client was eventually released and shook hands with members of the execution team while wiping away tears, saying, “This is a day I’ll never forget.”

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Campbell’s legal team had long warned Ohio prison officials that his failing health would present significant obstacles for the planned execution, as he suffers from severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder after decades as a heavy smoker. Days before his lethal injection was scheduled to take place, a medical examination found no suitable veins for the process. Campbell was also issued a special wedge-shaped pillow to allow him to remain propped upright and able to breathe during the execution.


Given his deteriorating health, Campbell’s execution had become a rallying point for opponents of the death penalty, who say carrying out his death sentence under the circumstances is unnecessarily cruel.

“This is not justice, and this is not humane,” ACLU of Ohio Senior Policy Director Mike Brickner said in a statement.


“Today the state made a spectacle of a man’s life,” Brickner added. “The cruel and unusual practice of lethal injection must end.”

Earlier this month, Campbell unsuccessfully petitioned to have his execution carried out by firing squad rather than lethal injection.


Despite the botched attempt to end Campbell’s life, Ohio officials are committed to killing the 69-year-old. Speaking with The Toledo Blade, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction head Gary Mohr said simply: “We’re not going to rush to execute. We’re just taking our time, and I think that’s fine”

Senior writer. When in doubt he'll have the soup.

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