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No Way to Kill a Dog

By Margo Pierce · May 10th, 2006 · All The News That Fits
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Ohio can now lay claim to the longest execution on record in the United States, thanks to the long, slow killing of Joseph Lewis Clark, age 57, on May 2.

The executioners took 25 minutes to insert an intravenous line for the lethal injection. Once the chemicals started flowing, they failed to kill Clark, according to media witnesses permitted to observe the execution.

"It's not working. It's not working," Clark said, according to the witnesses.

Prison officials then drew the curtains on the death chamber and attempted to re-establish the intravenous line. Clark could be heard "moaning and groaning" by witnesses.

After a new I.V. was inserted, the curtains were re-opened and the drug infusion began again. Clark raised his head several times and breathed deeply before going still. Expected to be a 15-minute ordeal, the execution took 86 minutes.

Dr. Jonathan I. Groner, a national expert on lethal injection, commented on the "grisly" execution in a statement released in Cincinnati by the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center.

"The opaque curtain pulled across the execution chamber could not hide the fact that this man was tortured to death," Groner said. "Furthermore, the three-drug injection used to extinguish his life is considered so inhumane that veterinarians are forbidden from using it in a similar fashion to euthanize animals.

"Today's execution demonstrates the terrible dilemma of lethal injection as medical charade. On the one hand, this 'medicalized' killing procedure, which uses I.V. tubing, anesthetic drugs and other medical equipment, becomes torture in the hands of unqualified individuals. On the other hand, the involvement of medical professionals such as physicians and nurses in executions violates the fundamental ethics of these professions.

"No human, regardless of his or her crime, should be subjected to the torture that Mr. Clark faced. The barbarity of this execution is making news headlines around the world. I urge Ohio's political leaders to call for a moratorium on lethal injection immediately."

Shortly after the execution of Clark, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent an e-mail to supporters, calling on Ohioans to voice their opposition to the death penalty.

"The ACLU of Ohio is appalled at the incompetence demonstrated at the Joseph Clark execution on Tuesday and asks you to voice your concern over Ohio's death penalty system," the e-mail said. "We encourage you to write not only to Gov. Taft but your representatives and the newspapers, highlighting the continued problems with lethal injection as a form of cruel and unusual punishment."

The Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (

The executioners took 25 minutes to insert an intravenous line for the lethal injection. Once the chemicals started flowing, they failed to kill Clark, according to media witnesses permitted to observe the execution.

"It's not working. It's not working," Clark said, according to the witnesses.

Prison officials then drew the curtains on the death chamber and attempted to re-establish the intravenous line. Clark could be heard "moaning and groaning" by witnesses.

After a new I.V. was inserted, the curtains were re-opened and the drug infusion began again. Clark raised his head several times and breathed deeply before going still. Expected to be a 15-minute ordeal, the execution took 86 minutes.

Dr. Jonathan I. Groner, a national expert on lethal injection, commented on the "grisly" execution in a statement released in Cincinnati by the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center.

"The opaque curtain pulled across the execution chamber could not hide the fact that this man was tortured to death," Groner said. "Furthermore, the three-drug injection used to extinguish his life is considered so inhumane that veterinarians are forbidden from using it in a similar fashion to euthanize animals.

"Today's execution demonstrates the terrible dilemma of lethal injection as medical charade. On the one hand, this 'medicalized' killing procedure, which uses I.V. tubing, anesthetic drugs and other medical equipment, becomes torture in the hands of unqualified individuals. On the other hand, the involvement of medical professionals such as physicians and nurses in executions violates the fundamental ethics of these professions.

"No human, regardless of his or her crime, should be subjected to the torture that Mr. Clark faced. The barbarity of this execution is making news headlines around the world. I urge Ohio's political leaders to call for a moratorium on lethal injection immediately."

Shortly after the execution of Clark, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent an e-mail to supporters, calling on Ohioans to voice their opposition to the death penalty.

"The ACLU of Ohio is appalled at the incompetence demonstrated at the Joseph Clark execution on Tuesday and asks you to voice your concern over Ohio's death penalty system," the e-mail said. "We encourage you to write not only to Gov. Taft but your representatives and the newspapers, highlighting the continued problems with lethal injection as a form of cruel and unusual punishment."

The Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (www.ijpc-cincinnati.org) hosts the Cincinnati Chapter of Ohioans to Stop Execution (www.otse.org). The group meets at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month in an effort to promote a moratorium and to witness and hold vigils during executions.

IJPC recently announced that the execution of Jeffrey Hill of Cincinnati was indefinitely postponed because he's participating in a class action lawsuit against the state of Ohio, challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection as a form of execution (see "Killing a Family," issue of March 1-7). Hill killed his mother while high on crack, and his family doesn't want him executed.

To date, Hill's family and IJPC have collected more than 1,400 signatures on a petition asking Gov. Bob Taft to grant clemency. A clemency hearing before the Ohio State Adult Parole Authority isn't yet scheduled. To sign the petition, go to www.petitiononline.com/ jeffhill/petition.html. To volunteer to help gather signatures, contact Eunice Timoney-Ravenna of IJPC at 513-579-8547.



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