Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

December 6, 2012

At 450 pounds, Ohio killer continues to fight execution

COLUMBUS, Ohio — At about 450 pounds, Ohio death row inmate Ronald Post is so fat that his executioners won't be able to find veins in his arms or legs for the lethal injection, and he might even break the death chamber gurney, his lawyers say.

If the state is forced to use a backup method that involves injecting the drugs directly into muscle, the process could require multiple doses over several hours or even days and result in a grueling and painful end, they say.

Post, who gained close to 200 pounds on death row, is trying to stave off execution Jan. 16 for the 1983 killing of a motel clerk during a robbery, arguing that because of his obesity, an attempt to put him to death would amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

State officials say Post, 53, can be humanely executed under both Ohio's usual method and the untested backup procedure. The warden at the prison where the death chamber is situated even tested the gurney by piling 540 pounds of weights on it for two hours.

Post has not presented "sufficient evidence demonstrating that his obesity or other physical conditions will present a substantial risk that his execution cannot be conducted in a humane and dignified manner," Assistant Attorney General Charles Wille said in court papers.

A federal judge in Columbus will hold a hearing on Post's claim later this month.

Post's case is not without precedent: In 1994, a federal judge in Washington state ruled that convicted killer Mitchell Rupe, at more than 400 pounds, was too heavy to be hanged because he might be decapitated. After numerous court rulings and a third trial, Rupe was sentenced to life in prison, where he died in 2006.

If Post manages to stop his execution because of his weight, the legal precedent may not be far-reaching, because of the very small number of death row inmates who are that obese, said Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor and expert on lethal injection. And she said it is unlikely prisoners would begin stuffing themselves to try to fend off execution.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, predicted states will find a way around obesity claims by adjusting their execution procedures, perhaps by changing the drug or the dosage.

"Inmates probably will recognize that that's a thin straw to hang your hopes on," he said.

In 2007, it took Ohio executioners about two hours to insert IVs into the veins of condemned killer Christopher Newton, who weighed about 265 pounds.

At 6-foot-2½, Post weighed 260 pounds around the time he was moved to death row in 1985. His weight has gone up and down behind bars, and at one time he lost 150 pounds through dieting, his lawyers say.

But knee and back problems have made it difficult to exercise, his lawyers say. They also say Post's request for gastric bypass surgery was denied, he has been told not to walk because he might fall, and severe depression has contributed to his inability to control how much he eats.

The Ohio prison system would not comment on how Post gained so much weight behind bars. They said meals are served in reasonable portions and seconds are not allowed, and they provided copies of prison menus that list healthier options such as low-fat milk, vegetarian patties and mixed vegetables.

Inmates can buy sweet and salty snacks from the commissary.

A doctor who examined Post for the defense said Post does not have accessible veins in his arms, hands or legs.

"Given his unique physical and medical condition there is a substantial risk that any attempt to execute him will result in serious physical and psychological pain to him, as well as an execution involving a torturous and lingering death," Post's attorneys argue in court papers.

His lawyers have indicated they would fight any attempt by the state to employ a third possible procedure: the "cut-down" method, in which executioners cut into the condemned man's arms to find a vein. Ohio's execution policies don't call for such an approach, and it is unclear if the state can go ahead with such a procedure without court approval.

___

Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Valdosta Daily Times e-Edition, or our print edition

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Dollar Tree-Family Do_Rich copy.jpg Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

    The fight for penny pinchers is intensifying.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Mideast Israe_Rich copy.jpg Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges

    Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday.
    The failure to reach even a brief humanitarian lull in the fighting illustrated the difficulties in securing a more permanent truce as the sides remain far apart on their terms.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP81072904918 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP4507280123 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, July 28, 2014
    Today is Monday, July 28, the 209th day of 2014. There are 156 days left in the year. 
     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tentative deal reached on VA reform

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    July 27, 2014

  • United States-Libya_Rich.jpg US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes

    The United States shuttered its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias. Secretary of State John Kerry said “free-wheeling militia violence” prompted the move.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP9607270692 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Today is Sunday, July 27, the 208th day of 2014. There are 157 days left in the year.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • No ticket for Shrek over loud musical, chief says

    A musical being performed in a New Hampshire park has drawn some noise complaints, but the deputy police chief says he’s “not giving Shrek a ticket.”

    July 26, 2014

  • Arizona Execution Dru_Rich copy.jpg Arizona’s McCain: Execution was torture

    U.S. Sen. John McCain says the execution of an Arizona inmate that lasted two hours was torture.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ukraine Plane_Rich copy.jpg US: Russia firing into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results