An unsuccessful attempt by Ohio prison officials to execute an inmate in September has led the state to grant at least four temporary stays of execution to other inmates on Death Row.
Marietta attorney Dennis Sipe represents one of the men, who without the stay, was set to be executed Nov. 10.
His client, Darryl Durr, 46, of Cleveland, was sentenced to die for abducting, raping and using a dog chain to choke to death 16-year-old Angel O'Nan of Elyria on Jan. 31, 1988.
Times file photos
ABOVE: Fred A. Mundt, 35, of Monroe County, is the only area man on Ohio’s death row. He was sentenced to death in Noble County Common Pleas Court in 2004 for the rape and murder of 7-year-old Brittany Hendrickson. The state has yet to set a date for Mundt’s execution.
Sipe, the only area attorney certified to represent individuals in death penalty cases, said he opposes execution for religious and personal reasons.
Ohio has put 30 men to death since it reinstated the death penalty in 1999. Of the 167 individuals in Ohio on death row, only one, Fred A. Mundt, is from the area.
Mundt, 35, of Monroe County, was sentenced to death in Noble County Common Pleas Court in 2004 for the rape and murder of 7-year-old Brittany Hendrickson. The state has yet to set a date for Mundt's execution.
Ohio's death row statistics
Current inmates: 166 men, 1 woman (86 African-American men; 72 Caucasian men; 4 Hispanic men; 2 Native-Americans; 2 Arab-Americans; 1 Caucasian female).
Ohio has put 373 convicted murderers to death to date, with 30 of those deaths coming since 1999.
Once a person is convicted and sentenced to the death penalty, the appeal process typically takes between 15 and 20 years.
Sipe said executions are not necessary because states can keep the worst offenders locked up for life. Also, he said, too many innocent people have been executed.
"Death isn't something we can take back," Sipe said. "We live in societies with prisons and jails... with an ability to incarcerate people. Yes, the Bible speaks of potential death penalties for various offenses, but those rules were put in place during a time when the people that received the instructions... were a nomadic group roaming the desert with no way to house prisoners."
In July, Sipe witnessed the death of another client, John Fautenberry, 45, of Oregon. Fauntenberry was a former truck driver who went on a multistate killing spree and was executed for the murder of a Cincinnati-area man who gave him a ride in 1991.
Sipe argued Fauntenberry had suffered brain injuries as a child and while serving in the U.S. Navy. He wanted Fauntenberry re-evaluated prior to his execution. It didn't happen.
"It is a very strange feeling to sit there and watch someone be put to death," Sipe said.
There were problems with Fauntenberry's execution, too.
"They had problems getting an IV in and he was bleeding, and it was interesting for me to watch as my client was laying there and trying to help them," Sipe said. "He was holding up his arm and trying to help them kill him."
Last week, Ohio lawmakers announced a plan to change the drugs and procedures for lethal injection in the state - an attempt to prevent future failures similar to the Sept. 15 attempt to kill Romell Broom.
Broom's execution team struggled unsuccessfully for two hours to insert intravenous shunts into his arms to administer the lethal cocktail of three drugs, prompting Gov. Ted Strickland to take the unprecedented step of stopping an execution.
The state says it will now only use one drug, rather than a three-drug cocktail it previously used. Also, when veins cannot be accessed a direct injection into muscles will be administered, officials said.
Former Washington County Prosecutor Michael Spahr said the last death penalty case in the county came in 1984.
Larry Lee was accused of killing his estranged wife and her friend at Colonial Terrace apartments in Marietta.
Lee was ultimately found guilty of both murders but the convictions came separately, after a jury hung on one of the counts.
"There was a juror who may have answered all of the questions appropriately to sit on the jury, but when it came time, she had a change of heart," Spahr said. "She said something like God had talked to her overnight, and really, I think she just had a change of heart about sitting on a death penalty case."
Lee, 62, was sentenced to life in prison and will first be eligible for parole in April 2020.