The table that Ohio’s condemned inmates lie on while they are executed by lethal injection will hold the weight of convicted killer Ronald Ray Post, according to an affidavit filed in federal court this week by the warden at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
Post, 53, is scheduled to die on Jan. 16 for the 1983 murder of Helen Vantz, an Elyria motel clerk and mother who was shot in the head while working on the motel’s receipts.
Post’s attorneys argued in court filings last month that at 480 pounds, Post is morbidly obese and his weight will make it difficult for the execution team to insert shunts into his veins to deliver the lethal overdose of sedative used in executions. His lawyers also had argued that the table used in executions wouldn’t hold his weight and risked collapse.
Warden Donald Morgan, however, wrote that Post weighed 396 pounds at a weigh-in last week and that he had tested the execution table to make certain it would hold Post’s bulk.
He wrote that he had a volunteer prison employee who weighs around 420 pounds lie on the table and be strapped down for approximately five minutes.
“The execution table held firmly and showed no signs of instability,” Morgan wrote. “Furthermore, the straps on the execution table were of sufficient length to strap the volunteer.”
Morgan wrote that he further tested the table by putting 12 45-pound weights on the table. The weights, which totaled 540 pounds, were on the table for roughly two hours without problem, he wrote.
“I am confident that that the execution table at SOCF can and will accommodate the weight of Inmate Post for his scheduled execution,” he wrote.
Morgan also noted that he recently purchased a new stretcher for transporting heavier prisoners. That stretcher, he wrote, is rated to hold individuals between 700 pounds and 1,100 pounds.
Post’s lawyers have pointed out that his request for gastric bypass surgery was denied by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and that physical problems make it difficult for him to exercise.
The state also challenged the claims by David Lubarsky, the medical expert who reviewed Post’s medical records and raised concerns about the ability of the state to carry out the execution in a humane manner.
The state’s medical expert, Mark Dershwitz, wrote that it was impossible to determine whether shunts could be inserted in Post’s veins without performing an actual physical examination of the condemned man.
Obese individuals aren’t all the same, Dershwitz wrote, and the difficulty of inserting shunts, or intravenous catheters, varies from person to person.
“I have cared for hundreds of morbidly obese persons in my career, including patients weighing as much as, or more than, Mr. Post,” Dershwitz wrote. “In some of them, the insertion of the IV catheter was indeed extremely challenging, while in others it was extremely easy, and in most of them, the degree of difficulty was somewhere in between.”
Lubarsky wrote that in his opinion if the shunts weren’t properly placed, the sedative seeps out into other areas of Post’s body, causing “severe, burning pain and tissues damage.”
If that were to happen, Lubarsky wrote, the sedative “will not render a man of Mr. Post’s size unconscious, let alone kill him.”
In addition to his challenges to the state’s execution protocols and how they would be used on Post, his lawyers have argued that their client isn’t guilty of killing Vantz alone.
In court documents filed both in federal court and in Lorain County Common Pleas Court, they argue that an incorrect narrative has been used in the hearing that led to Post receiving a death sentence three decades ago after he pleaded no contest to aggravated murder.
Post’s lawyers contend that the faulty narrative unfairly colored subsequent appeals efforts that have led to Post remaining on death row because it contained exaggerated descriptions of confessions Post made to several people who later agreed to testify against him, including the two men he originally planned to rob the Slumber Inn with. Neither of those men was ever charged.
Post, his attorneys wrote, has never denied some involvement in the robbery, but never confessed to committing the crime alone.
Attorneys for the state have argued that Post’s arguments lack merit and have already been rejected by previous reviews of his case.
Post also is involved in a separate civil lawsuit with other death row inmates challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s lethal injection protocols.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or email@example.com.