Ohio: Execution table can support obese inmate from Lorain County

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The warden of the prison where Ohio puts inmates to death says the state's execution table can easily hold a condemned inmate who has argued he is so big it might collapse.

The table was tested by placing an equally heavy prison employee on it and additionally by placing weights on it.

"The execution table held firmly and showed no signs of instability," Donald Morgan, warden at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, said in a court filing late Monday opposing inmate Ronald Post's request to be spared.

Judging by the two tests, Morgan said he is confident the table "can and will accommodate the weight of inmate Post for his scheduled execution."

Post's attorneys said last month he weighs 480 pounds, while the state says Post weighed 396 pounds last week.

Post, 53, is scheduled to die Jan. 16 for the 1983 shooting death of Helen Vantz in Elyria.

Vantz's son, Bill Vantz, has called Post's arguments "laughable."

Post argues his weight, vein access, scar tissue, depression and other medical problems raise the likelihood his executioners would encounter severe problems.

"Indeed, given his unique physical and medical condition, there is a substantial risk that any attempt to execute him will result in serious physical and psychological pain to him, as well as an execution involving a torturous and lingering death," a court filing said last month.

Post's attorneys also want more time to pursue arguments that claims of a full confession by the inmate to several people have been falsely exaggerated.

Morgan said he successfully tested the strength of the table with an employee who weighed 420 pounds, and later by piling 540 pounds of weight on the table. The table straps easily fit around the employee, Morgan said.

The state is also questioning the validity of arguments in favor of sparing Post made by a doctor who did not examine him. The state says Post hasn't presented evidence he can't be put to death "in a humane and dignified manner."

Ohio is also challenging Post's arguments on technical grounds, saying he has exhausted his claims before federal courts and shouldn't be allowed to make this new argument.

Ohio executes inmates with a single dose of pentobarbital, usually injected through the arms.

Medical personnel have had a hard time inserting IVs into Post's arms, according to a court filing. Four years ago, an Ohio State University medical center nurse needed three attempts to insert an IV into his left arm, the lawyers wrote.

Post has tried losing weight, but knee and back problems have made it difficult to exercise, according to his court filing.

Post's request for gastric bypass surgery has been denied, he has been encouraged not to walk because he's at risk for falling, and severe depression has contributed to his inability to limit how much he eats, his filing said.

While at the Mansfield Correctional Institution, Post "used that prison's exercise bike until it broke under his weight," according to the filing.

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