Huron man executed

LUCASVILLE A man impatient to die had to wait the longest. Former Huron resident Chri
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

LUCASVILLE

A man impatient to die had to wait the longest.

Former Huron resident Christopher Newton died Thursday nearly two hours after his scheduled execution, the longest delay in Ohio's history.

Newton wanted to die. When he burglarized his father's home in 1999, he intentionally left a handprint behind so he would be caught and sent to prison. In November 2001, he stomped, strangled and drank the blood of his Mansfield Correctional Institution cellmate, 27-year-old Jason Brewer. He refused to cooperate with investigators unless they sought the death penalty against him.

But Thursday he finally hit a snag in his drive toward death -- a delay in his execution so long he was given a bathroom break.

Yet even that didn't seem to faze Newton, who chatted and laughed with state prison workers in his holding cell as they struggled to find a vein in his arm to deliver the lethal injection.

He died at 11:53 a.m., though the start of his execution was scheduled for about 10 a.m. Executions typically take 20 minutes.

The execution team stuck him at least 10 times with needles to get the shunts in place for the deadly chemicals.

It was the longest delay since the state resumed executions in 1999 and the second time in little more than a year that prison staff had trouble inserting shunts.

When Newton eventually was moved from the holding cell and strapped to the table in the death chamber, he said, "Yes, boy, I could sure go for some beef stew and a chicken bone. That's it."

Warden Edwin Voorhies Jr. said it was "an inside joke intended for the other inmates on death row."

Prison officials said the difficulty prison staff had finding Newton's veins resulted from the girth of the 265-pound, 6-foot inmate. Newton told a public defender it was hard for blood to be taken from his veins because of his weight.

Fifty-three minutes into the process, prison spokeswoman Andrea Dean flashed a note to reporters: "We have told the team to take their time. His size is creating a problem."

Witness Mike Bowersock described the medical workers as being visually frustrated by the execution effort, but Newton let out a couple of "belly laughs" and seemed in good spirits.

The deadly combination of drugs: sodium pentothal (puts an individual into a deep sleep), pancuronium (stops the respiratory system) and potassium chloride (stops heart activity) were finally administered at 11:34 a.m.

Shortly thereafter, Newton gasped for air, his throat palpitating several times. His hands and forehead turned blue.

Newton's attorney, Ohio public defender Robert Lowe, released a statement from his client after the execution was complete.

"To all those I've hurt in the past please forgive me. I hope this (the execution) gives everyone closure. To the Brewer family, I'm sorry. If I could take it back, I would. To my family, I love you and I'm sorry," his handwritten note stated.

Newton's cousin, Cathy Black Grant, formerly of Huron, later said the family is "concentrating on memorializing Christopher's life and not on the details of Thursday."

Protesters outside the prison and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio plan to use the execution delay as another example to support a current lawsuit filed by some of Ohio's death row inmates that contend the lethal injection process is cruel and unusual.

"There will be a day in trial that they will have to answer up as to what caused this two-hour delay," said Greg Meyers, chief counsel for the Public Defender's Office. "That's a lot of time messing around trying to get a needle in a vein."

State prisons director Terry Collins said he allowed more forgiving timetables after problems last year during the execution of Joseph Clark. He died 90 minutes after his scheduled execution time because prison staff had trouble finding a vein in the longtime-intravenous drug user's arm.

Meyers said a decision was made not to intervene when Newton's execution was delayed.

"You have to remember that Newton wanted to die," he said. "Our job isn't to oppose the death penalty, it's to represent our clients."

After the execution, Dean said Newton's family could not afford a funeral so the state planned to cremate his remains and return the ashes to his spiritual adviser.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.