WESTERHOLD: State killed Newton, erased his victim

Former Huron resident Christopher Newton was a dead man talking and a dead man laughing before he became a dead man walking and then
Matt Westerhold
May 24, 2010

Former Huron resident Christopher Newton was a dead man talking and a dead man laughing before he became a dead man walking and then a dead man waiting.

Newton walked the 17 steps from the death row holding cell to the death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville on Thursday, about a month after he spoke with a Register reporter and said he was anxious for the state to kill him.

But once in the death chamber, the state's executioners had difficulty finding a vein in the obese man's arms suitable for the shunts that would pump the lethal injection into his body.

Why the state allows a death row inmate to become obese escapes me.

The difficulty led to a nearly two-hour delay that included a bathroom break for the convicted killer before the executioners successfully placed the shunts and began pumping the lethal drug combo into his body.

Newton finally got his death wish at 11:53 a.m. Thursday.

In the end, however, Newton's execution was nothing more than a state-assisted suicide. And as appalling as that is, it gets worse. The state also acted as an accomplice in the 2001 murder that landed Newton on death row.

The state became culpable when prison guards placed 27-year-old, 130-pound Jason Brewer into a cell with the 200-plus-pound Newton. Those guards should have known better, according to a state Parole Board report.

"Mr. Newton planned the offense. He purposely arranged to be placed in protective custody, and even more importantly, he manipulated the situation in order to be placed in the cell with Jason Brewer," the report states.

It's striking that a prison inmate could so easily manipulate prison guards in order to carry out his plan to kill. Newton choked and stomped Brewer to death and then drank the victim's blood, smearing it on his face.

But the state's complicity is worse yet.

Jason Brewer -- Newton's victim -- was a baby born to a world that just didn't care. It didn't care when he was alive, and it didn't care after he was dead.

The details of Brewer's life are sketchy -- almost as if they had been swept under the rug -- but state officials did release some information.

Brewer was molested in his childhood home and became a ward of the state. A Lucas County Children Services agency employee adopted him, but in short order began molesting Brewer. The adoptive father was convicted on charges related to the molestation in 1986.

Before he was murdered, Brewer bounced from foster home to foster home and by 1994, when he was just (about) 20, Brewer faced a hefty prison sentence on an attempted aggravated burglary conviction. His public defender told the Register the judge in Brewer's case handed down a draconian sentence because the general mood at that time was a crackdown on crime.

Society was safe, but Brewer, who never got one break in life, was not.

This small man who had been a victim all his life was made a perpetual victim in prison. A victim to the very end.

The state's bad behavior seems to never have been addressed. State prison authorities could not even provide the Register a photo of Brewer even though he'd been an inmate in their facilities for more than five years.

The state couldn't provide information regarding the crimes Brewer had committed.

There was even a current outstanding arrest warrant out of Maumee for Brewer's arrest, nearly six years after his grisly murder at the hands of Christopher Newton.

Newton killed, he said, because he wanted to be on death row. In the end, maybe he got what he deserved Thursday.

But the state's complicity in Brewer's death, and the fact that his killer wanted to die, are reasons enough to question the state's actions.

Combine these with the miserable failure of the state's child welfare system in caring for the abused child that Brewer was, it makes me question whether this government, or any government, should ever have the power to kill.

The state botched its responsibility to care for Brewer when he was a child no one cared for; it botched his incarceration; and it botched his killer's execution.

The only thing state officials seem to have done effectively is making sure the details of Brewer's life disappeared.

And that's not right.