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Nov 16, 3:26 PM EST

Experts: Failed execution attempt may cause legal challenges


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AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio's failure to execute a condemned killer with poor veins despite multiple claims by the state that the veins were accessible will lead to new challenges of the state lethal injection process, death penalty experts predict.

Each new problem with executions adds to the question of whether Ohio is violating the constitutional rights of death-row prisoners, Mike Benza, a Case Western Reserve University law professor who has represented death-row inmates, said Thursday.

Front and center is the state's protocol for conducting executions, he said.

"How can you write this, say, 'This is what we're going to do, we've trained our people,' and then they don't do it?" Benza said.

Prisons director Gary Mohr called off Wednesday's execution of Alva Campbell about 25 minutes after several unsuccessful attempts to insert an IV in Campbell's arms and right leg.

"The veins were not good," Mohr said, explaining the decision.

Yet three times in 24 hours - 12:07 p.m. and 8:09 p.m. on Tuesday, and 9:56 a.m. on Wednesday - the state said Campbell's veins appeared usable.

Campbell was sentenced to die for fatally shooting a teen in a 1997 carjacking. Republican Gov. John Kasich set a new execution date in June 2019.

Ohio's next execution is Feb. 13, when the state plans to put to death Raymond Tibbetts for fatally stabbing a man in Cincinnati in 1997.

Lawyers challenging Ohio's lethal injection system are still reviewing what happened Wednesday, Allen Bohnert, a federal public defender, said Thursday.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office, which defends the lethal injection process, declined to comment.

The failed execution is another reminder of fundamental flaws with lethal injection, said Lori Shaw, a University of Dayton law professor.

"The state should not adopt a process that requires someone without the proper training and expertise to perform a medical procedure," Shaw said.

The identities of Ohio executioners aren't known, but some have had experience as paramedics, according to past court testimony.

In 2009, the state called off the execution of killer Romell Broom after two hours of unsuccessful attempts to find a vein. Broom is back on death row with a new execution date in 2020.

In 2006, Ohio executioners needed more than an hour to put Joseph Clark to death because of trouble with his veins.

On Wednesday, 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.

Although it appeared the executioners had successfully inserted a needle in his shin, the warden instructed the team to pull it out, said David Stebbins, Campbell's public defender.

Stebbins said Campbell's poor veins and other health ills are problems that won't go away anytime soon.

Death penalty opponents called for the state to put an end to the death penalty.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

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