Capital punishment in Ohio
Berry, 36, was sentenced to die for the Dec. 1, 1989 murder of his employer, Cleveland baker Charles Mitroff Jr.
Known as "The Volunteer" because he waived all appeals and said he wanted to die, Berry chose lethal injection over the electric chair. He was given intravenous doses of sodium pentothal to make him lose consciousness, pancuronium bromide to paralyze his muscles and stop his lungs, and potassium chloride to stop his heart. A curtain hid the electric chair as Berry was put to death.
Before Berry, the last inmate executed was Donald Reinbolt, who was put to death on March 15, 1963. Reinbolt was the 315th person to die by execution in the State of Ohio. No one realized it at the time, but his would be the last execution for more than 35 years.
The U.S. Supreme Court nullified existing death penalty laws in 1972. Anticipating SupremeCourt action, lower courts had put executions on hold since 1967.
In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty constitutional under certain circumstances ifjuries were permitted to consider mitigating factors. Many states have adopted conforminglegislation and resumed executions -- with Texas leading the list.
At the time of Berry's execution there were 190 other men on death row in Ohio.
Also among the inmates who are farthest along in the appeals process are John Spirko, convictedof killing a Van Wert County postmistress in 1982; Rhett DePew, who killed three Oxfordwomen in 1984; and David Brewer of Washington Twp., who killed the wife of his formercollege fraternity brother in 1985.
OHIO EXECUTION PROCEDURES30 days before execution: If needed, authorities can activate acrowd-control plan for demonstrations. A phone line is set up between thegovernor's office and the execution chamber, with cellular phones as a backup,in the event of a last-minute pardon or execution stay.
One week before execution: The condemned inmate chooses electrocution orlethal injection. If the inmate fails to choose, the method is electrocution.Wilford Berry Jr. has chosen injection.
24 to 72 hours before execution: The prisoner is moved to the Death Houseat the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville, where he ismonitored by an "execution team" of at least 10 prison officials. The prisoneris allowed daily visits with family, friends and clergy. The prisoner namesthree people he wants to witness the execution. Berry has chosen his motherand sister, although it's unclear if they will attend. He specifies funeralarrangements, decides who will receive his personal effects and orders hislast meal. Communication equipment and the execution apparatus are tested. Theinmate is fitted for clothing to be worn at the execution.
Within 12 hours of execution: The Scioto County coroner prepares a deathcertificate. The execution team leader confirms arrangements for dispositionof the body.
Six hours before execution: If electrocution has been chosen, theexecution team prepares the sponges that fit on the prisoner's head to helpconduct the electricity. The prisoner is served his last meal.
Four hours before execution: In the case of electrocution, the prisoner'shead and right leg are shaved. The prisoner is permitted to shower.
Three hours before execution: Officials check the execution chamber, allelectrical circuits and power, and primary and backup communicationsequipment.
Two hours before execution: Witnesses report to the prison. Executionsmay be attended by the warden, the sheriff of the county in which the prisonerwas convicted, the prison system director, doctors, clergy, members of thevictim's family, up to three witnesses chosen by the prisoner and the newsmedia.
One hour before execution: Equipment is checked again.
Ten minutes before execution: Officials establish phone contact with thegovernor's office. If no stay or reprieve has been granted, this contact ismaintained until after the execution.
The execution: Witnesses are escorted into the witness room. The inmateis escorted into the execution chamber. In electrocution, the inmate isstrapped into the electric chair and an electrode is attached to his rightleg. In lethal injection, he is strapped into a bed and intravenous injectiontubes are hooked up. In electrocution, the execution team applies sponges,headset and electrodes to the head and covers the prisoner's head with a hood.At the warden's signal, the designated execution team member activates theelectric chair or begins the lethal injection. After five minutes, the coronerexamines the body and pronounces the prisoner dead.
History of capital punishment in OhioJuly 31, 1885: First execution carried out at the old Ohio Penitentiaryin Columbus
April 29, 1896: The 28th and final execution by hanging
March 15, 1963: Donald Reinbolt becomes the 315th and last person to dateto be executed in Ohio
1972: U.S. Supreme Court rules the death penalty unconstitutional
1974: The state legislature revises Ohio's death penalty, but in 1978 therevised law also is declared unconstitutional
Oct. 19, 1981: Ohio's current capital punishment statute goes into effect
Oct. 21, 1981: Leonard Jenkins of Cleveland becomes the first personsentenced under the new law, but he and several others, including four womenthen on death row, had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment by Gov.Richard Celeste in 1991
October 1993: Ohio legislature makes lethal injection an alterative toelectrocution
Feb. 19, 1999: "The volunteer," Wilford Berry Jr., is executed by lethal injection.
Selected Dayton Daily News stories:1995 DDN series -
Death Row: A Matter of Time
Berry's fate still uncertain
Published: Wednesday, March 4, 1998 Page: 1A
By Tim Miller, Tom Beyerlein and Debra JasperDayton Daily News
OHIO EXECUTES BERRY