“Too Fat to be Executed”

Hat tip to the Volokh Conspiracy:

Cooey’s public-defender attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday contending that his weight, the difficulty of finding veins suitable for lethal injection, and a drug he’s taking for migraines and seizures mean that Cooey might suffer “unnecessary pain in the execution of the death sentence.” . . .. 

Cooey was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of Dawn Marie McCreery, 20, and Wendy Jo Offredo, 21, on Sept. 1, 1986. Cooey and an accomplice, Clint Dickens, abducted and raped the Akron-area college students before choking and bludgeoning them to death. Dickens, a juvenile at the time, was sentenced to life in prison.

Cooey was 12 hours away from death on July 24, 2003, when a federal judge stopped his execution, primarily because of a dispute over his court-appointed attorneys’ representation and billing in the case.

A nurse who examined Cooey in 2003 while he was in the Death House at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville said his veins were “sparse.” Cooey told officials to come in early to begin the lethal injection, adding, “I don’t have any veins.”

Dr. Mark Heath, an expert witness hired by Cooey’s defense team, indicated that Cooey’s “morbid obesity” and the anti-convulsant and painkilling medication he takes for seizures combine to cause a “higher risk of an inhumane execution.”


Two opposing considerations immediately come to mind: First, if it is in fact true that he really does not have accessible veins, then I think there is a compelling argument for the fact that trying to execute him via lethal injection may be cruel and unusual due to the necessity of repeatedly sticking him with his death needle. Second, an unintened consequence of a ruling in his favor would create the perverse incentive for inmates to gorge themselves and gain enough weight to make lethal injection impossible. Any thoughts?


2 responses to ““Too Fat to be Executed”

  1. I agree with your first point. However, I would venture to guess that inmates get a prescribed amount of food in their “dining hall” of sorts, and don’t really have the option to keep on coming back for seconds and thirds to their liking. So I doubt that they’d all be going and getting fat in an attempt to avoid execution.

    That said, we shouldn’t really be executing anyone, period. But that’s another story.

  2. polisciafterparty

    Yeah, that thought occurred to me, but inmates who assert that they “need” more food may get it only to avoid cruel and unusual punishment charges- that is, so it doesn’t look like they are “starving” their inmates. Overall though, I think you’re right.

    As for the execution issue broadly speaking, I agree.

    – Legal Eagle

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