Too Overweight to Execute:

Death row inmate Richard Wade Cooey III is mounting an interesting challenge to his pending execution: He claims he is too overweight to be executed by lethal injection.

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."

The AP also covers Cooey's challenge here.

One Ohio paper thinks Cooey's argument "makes a mockery of the justice system" and expects federal courts to reject his claims forthwith. Here's a prediction of my own: How Cooey's argument fares depends on what panel he draws when his claim reaches the Sixth Circuit.