Four dead in old Ohio

… which, as middle-aged hippies like me will tell you, is a line from Neil Young’s student protest song “Ohio” (“Gotta get down to it / Soldiers are cutting us down / Should have been done long ago / What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground”).

That was about how, in 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on students at Kent State University, some of whom had been protesting at Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam war into Cambodia. (You can hear it on Blip.fm – scroll down to the Blip immediately below “Live at Massey Hall 1971”. And by the way, I can only agree with “[deleted-user]” (!) on last.fm, who in November wrote: “dear god, how can last.fm not have this great song!”)

Four dead in old Ohio is also, chillingly enough, exactly the situation in terms of executions in the state of Ohio this year. Four dead so far. Last month it was almost five. In a scene of disgusting, unmitigated horror, Ohio’s executioners spent two hours and 23 minutes trying to put a death penalty needle into various parts of condemned prisoner Romell Broom’s body. Broom was – understandably – very distressed: one minute trying to help his hapless executioners, the next in tears. If you can bear it, read more of the excruciating details here and here.

I can’t help thinking that some of those who’ve apparently said they’d support a return to capital punishment in the UK (new opinion poll in the Metro today) would change their minds if they looked at this grisly episode – and that’s without even talking about unfair trials, the possibility of executing an innocent person etc etc …

In over 1,000 lethal injections in the USA, Broom’s was the first to ever be called off. (By the way, click here for the astonishing – and tragic – story of a 17-year-old called Willie Francis who was sentenced to death in the electric chair Louisiana in 1946 but … survived the execution. Sadly – and cruelly – after a legal battle, they killed him a year later).

Having made such a miserable mess of killing Romell Broom you might think Ohio would have immediately cancelled all scheduled executions. Not a bit of it. Broom’s execution has been stayed by a judge (at least until the end of November), but Ohio is stubbornly pressing ahead with the judicial killings of three more death row prisoners by early December.

The first – the execution of 43-year-old Lawrence Reynolds – is set to take place at 3pm (UK time) this Thursday. Please add your voice to the Amnesty appeal for this and other Ohio executions to be halted.

Final word to the old hippie Young himself: “This summer I hear the drumming / Four dead in old Ohio…”.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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