Dead man waiting

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio decided this week to delay executions for at least a year, because of a shortage of the drugs used to carry out lethal injections.

It delays death for at least three killers from Franklin County.

I interviewed one of them on Death Row back in 1997.

“Would you rather have the injection or the electric chair?” I asked Warren Henness.

“I think that would be suicide, because you would be picking one death or the other,” he said. “I consider that suicide. They’ll have to make that decision, whoever kills me.”

Henness is still alive, 18 years after I visited him on death row and 23 years after he was convicted in the Short North robbery and murder of 51 year old Richard Meyers.

Until Ohio had problems with the effectiveness of its lethal cocktail, Henness was scheduled to die July 15th of this year.

When we went to death row back in 1997, Ohio’s electric chair was still ready for use –even though the state had not executed a prisoner in 40 years.

At that time, capital punishment advocates were angry at the long appeals process that allowed prisoners like Henness and Fred Treesh to languish in prison.

“The public out there blames us for extending our appeals over and over and saying we’re slow walking and dragging our feet and everything else,” Treesh said. “That’s not true. That’s not true. They’re forcing us to have our appeals. They’re forcing us, they’re saying you must have this appeal. Well if that’s the case what is wrong with the system if they are forcing us to check their system over again?”

Capital punishment opponents argued then, and now, that the long and expensive appeals process is necessary to ensure justice.  Death penalty advocates argue that the rights of the victims and their families are forgotten.

I asked Henness if he would want his family at his execution.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I couldn’t look out there and see my mom and know she was getting ready to face that.”

He said if he could have anyone there, it would be a priest.

Neither Henness nor Treesh denied their guilt.  Both claimed to be ready to accept their fate.

“They could come right now you know and I would go along with them,” Henness said. “A lot of these guys, you’re going to see them kick, scream, holler. Why? I am paying my debt to society and this is what they say I have to do…I don’t agree, but if that’s what they are saying then do it.”

And they did – on March 6, 2013, Fred Treesh received a powerful single dose of pentobarbital and it took less than a minute for him to die.

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