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No Usable Vein Delays Ohio Execution

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Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland granted a weeklong reprieve Tuesday to death-row inmate Romell Broom whose execution was delayed after the execution team was unable to find a usable vein. Associated Press reporter Stephen Majors says when Broom saw the trouble the team was having, he tried to help a vein pop out to speed up the process.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

Condemned inmate Romell Broom remains in an Ohio prison today, a day after he was supposed to be executed by lethal injection. Broom was granted a weeklong reprieve by Ohio's governor after the execution team failed for two hours to administer the drugs. Broom was convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing 14-year-old Tryna Middleton in 1984. Yesterday, he tried to help his executioners as they struggled to find a vein for the lethal injection. Associated Press reporter Stephen Majors was allowed to watch. He was watching on closed-circuit TV at the prison in Lucasville, Ohio.

And Stephen, describe where you were and what exactly was going on.

Mr. STEPHEN MAJORS (Reporter, Associated Press): Well, the death chamber is separated from the preparation room by a door, and the media can see into the death chamber but we can't see into the room where they administer the shunts. And that was what was showed on close-circuit TV.

Basically they brought us in there about 2 o'clock after a four-hour delay because of some last-minute appeals, and the procedure started. And 20, 30 minutes into it, we realized that this was a little bit different than past executions. And they were having a lot of trouble finding a suitable vein. And a couple times, they were able to reach a vein. But then once they did so and tried to administer the saline solution, the vein collapsed.

BLOCK: And what was the inmate - what was Romell Broom doing during this time?

Mr. MAJORS: Well, at the beginning, like another executioner saw, he was just laying down on a table with his arms stretched out, and they were trying to find veins in both arms. And then eventually, he saw that the trouble they were having and he started trying to point out veins in his arms to the execution staff, and at one point turned over on his left side and slid the rubber tubing they used to constrict the arm up his arm, and then moved his arm up and down and opened and closed his fingers, and was trying to help a vein pop out to speed up the process. Because at that point, he appeared to just want it over.

BLOCK: And did he appear to be in pain to you?

Mr. MAJORS: Difficult to tell. He, at one point, he did sit up on the table and they tried to administer the - or tried to find a vein in his feet. And a couple times, he looked up overhead in the direction of the camera and appeared to grimace. You could see visible frustration on his face after the point that he turned on his left side and tried to help them find a vein. He then turned back over on his back and took his hands and covered his face. And he was heaving up and down, appearing to be crying. And the prison staff handed him a roll of toilet paper. And he ripped a good portion of it off and started to wipe his eyes and wipe his brow.

BLOCK: There were family members of the victim also watching what you were watching. How did they react as this was going on?

Mr. MAJORS: Well, they kept turning back to their victim's advocates who were sitting next to them. And with their body language and with their words, were inquiring about whether this was - what was supposed to happen and wondering what was taking so long - couldn't hear everything because they were whispering. But the victim's mother was just - was kind of sitting after a while, resting her head on her left hand and just staring intently at the monitor.

BLOCK: This went on for two hours, and then what happened? Why did they stop?

Mr. MAJORS: Well, it went on for a couple of hours and the prisons director Terry Collins told us that several times, the staff asked the inmate if he wanted to take a break and the staff was also given the option to take a break. But at that point, both parties just wanted to press ahead. But eventually, it got to the point that the prison's director insisted that the break be taken.

And then later, after they tried a few more times, the prison's director, after talking to a staff and hearing that they were skeptical there to be able to find a workable vein, decided to ask the governor for a reprieve.

BLOCK: There have been a number of cases over the years of executioners having trouble finding veins in those they're supposed to put to death. Have you heard of a case like this before, where an execution actually was stopped and there was a stay that was granted?

Mr. MAJORS: Not in Ohio. There's been a couple of different instances where the execution has been delayed because of trouble finding suitable veins. But in those cases, the inmate was eventually executed by the end of the day. This stop midway through the process and postponement to a later date is unprecedented here in Ohio.

BLOCK: We mentioned that Romell Broom has been given a reprieve for one week. What happens now? Where does this - how does this proceed from here?

Mr. MAJORS: Well, he's going to be held for the next week, I believe, in an infirmary cell at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility where the death chamber is located. The execution is scheduled for 10 a.m. next Tuesday. And in the meantime, I'm sure we can expect to see lots of legal wrangling.

BLOCK: And did Romell Broom confess to this murder?

Mr. MAJORS: No, he's maintained that he did not do it. And, in fact, much of his appeal has been based on the fact that the defense was denied evidence that was potentially exculpatory.

BLOCK: Well, Stephen Majors, thank you for talking with us.

Mr. MAJORS: Thank you.

BLOCK: Stephen Majors is a reporter with the Associated Press. He spoke with us from Columbus, Ohio.

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