Obese Death Row Inmate Asks for Clemency Because of Weight

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A death row inmate who says he's too fat to be executed received poor legal help during his trial and later when he appealed the death sentence, his lawyers said Monday during a clemency hearing.

It's the second time that Richard Cooey, convicted of killing two University of Akron students in 1986, has asked the state for mercy. The Ohio Parole Board denied a similar request five years ago and Cooey came within a day of being executed in 2003 before a federal judge issued a reprieve.

In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, his lawyers said executioners would have trouble finding Cooey's veins and that his weight could diminish the effectiveness of one of the lethal injection drugs.

Cooey stands 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs 267 pounds. His execution is scheduled for Oct. 14.

Cooey didn't attend Monday's clemency hearing, and neither side argued the merits of the obesity lawsuit.

His lawyers said that Cooey's original defense team didn't properly present evidence about the effect of beatings Cooey received as a child as well as the impact of Cooey's alcohol abuse.

Cooey, 41, isn't the same person who committed the murders and is remorseful to the point of self-loathing, defense attorney Dana Cole told the parole board.

"If he's killed on Oct. 14, we will kill a changed man," Cole said. "He's not the same man who committed these crimes."

Parole Board member Sandra Mack questioned whether Cooey has ever acknowledged his role in the crimes.

"This just does not sound like someone taking responsibility for the major part he played in killing these young women," Mack said.

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh reviewed graphic details of the rape and murder of the two students, who met Cooey and his co-defendant after the two teens threw chunks of concrete off an overpass, striking the women's car.

Walsh also reviewed Cooey's unsuccessful attempt to escape from death row in 2005, when he used a homemade ladder constructed of rolled-up magazines and sheets to scale an outdoor recreation area wall.

"In the 22 years since the defendant committed these brutal acts, he has never demonstrated one second of genuine remorse for murdering these two young women," Walsh said.

Cooey's accomplice, Clinton Dickens, was not eligible for the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the murders. He is serving a life sentence.

The parole board will make a recommendation to Gov. Ted Strickland on Tuesday. Strickland can follow the board's ruling or make his own decision.