Man tells executioners "It’s not working"

By Jim Leckrone, Reuters 

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) – A double murderer was put to death in Ohio on Tuesday but not until after one of his veins had collapsed, causing the condemned man to sit up and tell his executioners, "It’s not working," officials said.

The Ohio Department of Corrections said Joseph Clark, 57, was pronounced dead at 11:26 a.m. EDT (1426 GMT) following an injection of lethal chemicals at the Southern Ohio Correctional Institution in Lucasville.

Spokeswoman Andrea Dean said the execution was delayed about 90 minutes because technicians had trouble initially finding a site in Clark’s arm for the intravenous line carrying the chemicals.

Then shortly after the poisons were supposed to have been pumping into his body, she said, he sat up saying, "It’s not working. It’s not working."

Officials determined that a vein had collapsed. Curtains were closed to block witnesses’ view until technicians found a vein in his other arm. They were then parted to reveal him dying, witnesses said.

Ohio has used lethal injection repeatedly without similar problems, but this method of execution, used in all but one of the 38 U.S. states that impose capital punishment, is under legal attack. The U.S. Supreme Court has a challenge before it from Florida claiming that it causes undue pain, while the matter is also before a court in California.

The method involves three separate drugs: the first renders the victim unconscious, the second stops all muscle movement except the heart and the third stops the heart, causing death.

Clark was given a meal of his request on Monday, consisting of shrimp, steak, chicken wings, fries, rolls with butter, cherry pie and a soft drink.

Just before the execution process started the first time Clark made a final statement apologizing to his victims’ families and saying "Today my life is being taken because of drugs. If you live by the sword you die by the sword."

On January 13, 1984, Clark shot Marine reservist and father of two David Manning and stole $65 from the gas station where Manning was working.

The murder came during an eight-day crime spree in which Clark also murdered another man, student Donald Harris, and wounded a third man during an attempted robbery.

Harris was filling in for a friend at a convenience store when Clark entered and demanded the contents of the store’s safe. Harris said he did not know the safe’s combination, and was shot in the back of the head.

Clark later attempted to rob a man at an automated teller machine, the two struggled, and the victim was wounded twice. A witness saw the attack and noted the license plate number on Clark’s car.

After he was arrested, Clark tried to hang himself in his jail cell, and confessed to the murders while recovering in a hospital. He was sentenced to death for Manning’s murder.

Clark said he robbed to support a drug habit.

"Neither the parole board nor I are persuaded by Mr. Clark’s attempt to explain away Mr. Manning’s murder," Gov. Robert Taft said in refusing clemency last week.

Taft said Clark’s "well established prior criminal conduct, both as a juvenile and as an adult, signifies a propensity for violent behavior."

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