November 22, 2014

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Penalty defense readies its case; book on executions part of exchange with prosecution

ELYRIA — Defense attorneys for two accused killers challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s lethal injection process don’t believe there’s a nice way to execute criminals, but they do acknowledge there are lots of ways to do it.

Prosecutors seeking to have Ruben Rivera and Ronald McCloud executed for their crimes will get to read all about executions throughout human history once Rivera and McCloud’s attorneys give them the copy of a book they’ve been reading.

The title? “What a Way to Go: The Guillotine, the Pendulum, the Thousand Cuts, the Spanish Donkey, and 66 Other Ways of Putting Someone to Death.”

The 352-page book written by Geoffrey Abbott is described as a “gruesomely hilarious and fascinating pop-history account of methods of execution from around the world and through the ages” by online bookseller Amazon.com.

Attorney Kreig Brusnahan, who represents Rivera, said he and American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Legal Director Jeff Gamso, another of Rivera’s attorneys, don’t endorse the various execution methods described in the book, which they plan to include in the evidence they turn over to prosecutors.

“If they choose to use the guillotine or hanging or some other method, that’s up to the state of Ohio,” Gamso said. “I’m not saying it’s quick and painless, I’m just saying these are other methods.”

After the state turned over detailed information of how it carries out executions last year, Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo asked Gamso for any information he had on how to carry out a humane execution.

Gamso said that at the time he hadn’t looked for “nice ways to kill people.”

But County Common Pleas Judge James Burge, who plans to conduct hearings on whether the state’s lethal injection process is cruel and unusual later this year, ordered Gamso to turn over any information he did have.

The book, along with more than 1,000 pages of legal documents and decisions that Rivera and McCloud’s attorneys have gathered, will comply with that order, Brusnahan said.

The documents will focus on alternatives to the three-drug cocktail used in Ohio and other states that employ lethal injection. Among them, Brusnahan said, are suggestions to simply use sedatives to kill condemned inmates.

The current method, which also is being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, uses a sedative to put the condemned inmate to sleep before a paralytic drug and a heart-stopping drug are administered. Critics say the sedative may wear off before the inmate dies, leaving them in excruciating agony, but unable to move or cry out.

Cillo filed a motion Thursday asking whether defense attorneys had turned over all their information. Defense attorneys already have given prosecutors copies of an expert’s review of the 632 pages of information the state turned over in December.

County Prosecutor Dennis Will said his office simply wants to make sure there’s time to review everything defense attorneys plan to use in the hearing.

“We’re under a pretty tight timeline,” he said.

Apparently, prosecutors have a lot more reading to do.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.