Attorneys for Ronald Ray Post have asked a federal judge to halt the scheduled execution of the convicted killer because he is morbidly obese.
Post is set to be executed Jan. 16 for the 1983 murder of Elyria motel clerk and mother Helen Vantz, who was shot twice in the head while working on the motel’s receipts. Post stole $100 and some of Vantz’s personal items before fleeing. He pleaded no contest in 1984 to aggravated murder and aggravated robbery charges before a three-judge panel sentenced him to death.
In court documents filed Friday, Post’s attorneys argue that he now weighs more than 480 pounds and the state’s lethal injection protocol, which consists of a massive overdose of a sedative, wouldn’t quickly and painlessly kill Post, as required by the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. It’s also unlikely, they contend, that the gurney would even be able to hold Post’s bulk.
According to Post’s lawyers, Post’s weight, scar tissue from a 2000 suicide attempt in which he tried to slash his wrists with a blade from a pencil sharpener and other issues would make it difficult for the execution team to find appropriate veins in which to insert the shunts to carry the sedative into Post’s system.
Post’s prison medical records indicate that medical personnel have had problems over the years drawing blood samples from him, his attorneys Assistant Federal Public Defender Joseph Wilhelm and Assistant Ohio Public Defender Rachel Troutman wrote.
In one instance, they wrote, it took four different technicians 17 “sticks” to draw blood. In May, it took a phlebotomist seven tries on four different sites on Post’s body to get blood.
“Considering highly trained medical personnel have had difficulty accessing Mr. Post’s veins, there is a high potential for error with the lesser-skilled Execution Team,” Wilhelm and Troutman wrote. “The Execution Team has had difficulties in executions of inmates who had far less complicating conditions than Mr. Post.”
They point to the failed 2009 execution of Romell Broom, whose execution was called off after numerous unsuccessful attempts to place the shunts that are used to allow the drugs to flow into a condemned man’s veins. Broom is still awaiting execution.
In 2006 during Joseph Clark’s execution, the line carrying drugs into Clark’s arm collapsed, prompting the Execution Team to have to set up another line. In 2007, it took nearly two hours to get the lines into the body of Christopher Newton, long enough that he was given a restroom break during the process.
If the first method fails, the state has a second protocol, which calls for the administration of drugs directly into the muscles, but given Post’s size, a medical expert insists that it is unlikely that the drugs would kill him.
The second method is untried and to have a chance of being successful would likely require repeated injections that could last for up to two days, longer than the death warrant would be good for, Post’s attorneys argue.
Post’s weight gain wasn’t deliberate, his attorneys wrote. They wrote that Post has requested bariatric surgery from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to control his weight, but a prison medical director rejected the procedure as “not medically necessary.”
Post sued the state over the denial of the gastric bypass surgery and other complaints, including that he had a metal toilet in his cell rather than one made of porcelain and that prison officials refused to allow him to have visitation with a British woman whom he wants to marry. A federal judge threw that lawsuit out.
Wilhelm said in an emailed statement that Post struggled with his weight even before being sentenced to death.
“His size is now very likely to cause serious complications with attempts at lethal injection,” he said in the statement. “Ohio’s history of lethal injection speaks for itself, particularly the two hours it took to execute inmate Christopher Newton. Regardless, Mr. Post’s case is about more than his weight, and his life should be spared for reasons wholly unrelated to his obesity.”
Post’s lawyers also have filed documents contending that he is innocent of the charges for which he was convicted.
They argue that the confessions Post made to several people he knew were not as incriminating as prosecutors claimed.
In addition, they wrote that two other men who were with Post the night before the murder discussing the robbery of the Slumber Inn went from being suspects in the case to prosecution witnesses after making statements implicating Post.
Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said Monday that Post also has filed a motion for a new trial locally, but he hasn’t read either the federal or local arguments and couldn’t comment on them until he does.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.