Romell Broom, 54, was convicted murdering 14-year-old Tryna Middleton on Sept. 21, 1984. 25 years later he was scheduled to die on Sept 15, 2009, after exhausting all appeals. He is still alive.
After trying for two hours, a team of technicians were unable to find a suitable vein in either his legs or his arms to inject the deadly concoction of drugs. Ohio's Gov. Ted Strickland ordered a one-week postponement of the execution after consulting with the Ohio Corrections Department.
This is Broom's second reprieve from death. He had been scheduled to die in October 2007, but he joined an inmate lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Ohio's lethal injection method and won a stay of execution. That challenge has since been dismissed.
Police records indicated that Tryna Middleton, a ninth grade student at Shaw High School in East Cleveland and two other teenage girls she was walking with at dark from a high school football game had been drinking beer and smoking marijuana. They were also thought to be sexually active and known to jump in cars with strangers, according to records.
Those two friends, Bonita Collier and Tammie Sims, said that Broom also grabbed them that night, Sept. 21, 1984, shortly before midnight. They fought him off while Tryna was dragged away. Tryna's body was found a few hours later in a nearby abandoned parking lot.
Broom, who had previously served time for raping a 12-year-old girl, was convicted of the abduction, rape and murder based on the testimony of the two other girls and his semen, found in the body of Tryna Middleton.
His lawyers described what happened on Tuesday Sept. 15 as torture and said they would try to block the execution. One of them, Adele Shank, said: “He survived this execution attempt, and they really can’t do it again. It was cruel and unusual punishment.”
According to reports Broom was very cooperative in assisting the technicians in trying to find a vein they could use.
He turned over on his left side, slid rubber tubing designed to clarify his veins up his left arm, then began moving the arm up and down while flexing and closing and opening his fingers. The execution team was able to access a vein, but it collapsed when technicians tried to insert saline fluid.
After that failed the team tried to insert shunts through veins in Broom's legs as he sat upright on the table. Unable to find a vein there, the team returned to Broom's arms to again. They finally gave up about two hours later and reported to prisons director Terry Collins that they were unable to find a suitable vein.
The team told him they didn't believe his veins would accept the saline fluid, or hold if the execution reached the point when the lethal drugs would start being administered. Collins contacted the governor who issued a reprieve for one week.
Collins said the difficulty in the process "absolutely, positively" does not shake his faith in the state's lethal injection procedure. He said his team wants to be "100 percent perfect 100 percent of the time" but that no one is.
"I have a team right now that's disappointed because they think they let me down," said Collins, who told the team they did not.
Collins said he thanked Broom after the reprieve was issued for the respectful way he dealt with the execution team and the demeanor he showed through the difficulties.
“This is the third screwed-up execution in three years,” said Jeffrey M. Gamso of the A.C.L.U. of Ohio. “They keep tweaking their protocol, but it takes more than tweaks. They don’t know how to do this competently, and they need to stop.”
Richard Dieter, director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, of the Death Penalty Information Center, said that given the likelihood of legal appeals, there was little chance that Mr. Broom would be put to death next Tuesday.
“The question of whether this is still an acceptable punishment in our society,” he said of executions generally, “is compounded by this mistake.”