CINCINNATI – Ohio executed a 5-foot-7, 267-pound double murderer who argued he was too fat to die humanely by lethal injection on Tuesday, the state's first execution since the end of an unofficial national moratorium.
Richard Cooey, 41, had argued in numerous legal challenges that his weight problem would make it difficult for prison staff to find suitable veins to deliver the deadly chemicals, a problem that delayed previous executions in the state.
There were no such difficulties, said Larry Greene, a spokesman for the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.
During preparations, though, Cooey shouted for one of his attorneys as prison staff tried to insert a shunt in his left arm. He was worried the staff would botch the execution, said Greg Meyers, an attorney with the Ohio Public Defender's Office.
Cooey, who killed two University of Akron students in 1986, walked into the death chamber wearing gray pants and a black short-sleeve shirt and was strapped onto the gurney.
"For what? You (expletive) haven't paid any attention to anything I've said in the last 22 1/2 years, why would anyone pay any attention to anything I've had to say now," Cooey said looking at the ceiling. He made no other comment.
Cooey tapped the fingers of his left hand several times before he died and his face took on a purple shade.
Six family members of one of his victims quietly watched the execution. Mary Ann Hackenberg, the mother of Dawn McCreery, who was 20 when she was killed, looked to the ceiling and let out a sigh when Cooey's death was announced at 10:28 a.m.
Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said the family was disappointed that Cooey was vulgar and hateful to the end.
"He still would not apologize and still would not accept responsibility for what he did," she said.
Three of Cooey's lawyers served as his witnesses.
"The government has no conscience, only policy. Today the policy was state-sanctioned murder of Richard Cooey," said one of the lawyers, Eric Allen.
Cooey was the first inmate executed in Ohio in more than a year, and the state's first since the end of the unofficial moratorium on executions that began last year while the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed Kentucky's lethal injection procedure.
Cooey lost a final appeal earlier Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court turned down without comment his complaint that the state's protocol for lethal injection could cause an agonizing and painful death. Cooey wanted the state to use a single drug rather than a three-drug combination, and asked for a stay of execution pending a hearing on that motion.
The court on Monday denied a separate appeal based on Cooey's claim that his obesity was a bar to humane lethal injection.
Cooey was 75 pounds heavier than when he went to death row — the result of prison food and 23-hour-a-day confinement, his lawyers said.
The last Ohio inmate to be executed was Christopher Newton — who was similar in size to Cooey — in May 2007. The execution team had trouble putting IVs in his arm, delaying his execution nearly two hours. There were similar problems in the execution of another inmate in 2006.
Cooey made an earlier trip to the death house. But a U.S. District Court judge intervened hours before his scheduled execution in July 2003 when the Ohio Public Defender's office said it needed more time to assess the case after an appeals court dismissed his previous attorneys for inadequate representation.
Cooey and a co-defendant were convicted in the sexual assaults and slayings of McCreery and Wendy Offredo, 21, in September 1986. His co-defendant was 17 and was sentenced to life in prison because of his age.
The state has now executed 27 inmates since 1999, when Ohio renewed executions after more than three decades.