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At 450 pounds, Ohio Murderer Fights Execution

  • This undated photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections shows 540 pounds of weights placed on the execution table at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio to test the table's load bearing. Ohio death row inmate Ronald Post, scheduled for execution Jan. 16, 2013, is arguing that, at 450 pounds, can not be humanely executed under both the state's usual method and the untested backup procedure. (AP Photo/Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Corrections)

    This undated photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections shows 540 pounds of weights placed on the execution table at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio to test the table's load bearing. Ohio death row inmate Ronald Post, scheduled for execution Jan. 16, 2013, is arguing that, at 450 pounds, can not be humanely executed under both the state's usual method and the untested backup procedure. (AP Photo/Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Corrections)

  • This undated photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections shows 540 pounds of weights placed on the execution table at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio to test the table's load bearing. Ohio death row inmate Ronald Post, scheduled for execution Jan. 16, 2013, is arguing that, at 450 pounds, can not be humanely executed under both the state's usual method and the untested backup procedure. (AP Photo/Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Corrections)

    This undated photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections shows 540 pounds of weights placed on the execution table at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio to test the table's load bearing. Ohio death row inmate Ronald Post, scheduled for execution Jan. 16, 2013, is arguing that, at 450 pounds, can not be humanely executed under both the state's usual method and the untested backup procedure. (AP Photo/Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Corrections)

  • This undated photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections shows 540 pounds of weights placed on the execution table at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio to test the table's load bearing. Ohio death row inmate Ronald Post, scheduled for execution Jan. 16, 2013, is arguing that, at 450 pounds, can not be humanely executed under both the state's usual method and the untested backup procedure. (AP Photo/Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Corrections)
  • This undated photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections shows 540 pounds of weights placed on the execution table at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio to test the table's load bearing. Ohio death row inmate Ronald Post, scheduled for execution Jan. 16, 2013, is arguing that, at 450 pounds, can not be humanely executed under both the state's usual method and the untested backup procedure. (AP Photo/Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Corrections)

— At about 450 pounds, Ohio death row inmate Ronald Post is so fat that his executioners won’t be able to find veins in his arms or legs for the lethal injection, and he might even break the death chamber gurney, his lawyers say.

If the state is forced to use a backup method that involves injecting the drugs directly into muscle, the process could require multiple doses over several hours or even days and result in a grueling and painful end, they say.

Post, who gained close to 200 pounds on death row, is trying to stave off execution Jan. 16 for the 1983 killing of a motel clerk during a robbery, arguing that because of his obesity, an attempt to put him to death would amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

State officials say Post, 53, can be humanely executed under both Ohio’s usual method and the untested backup procedure. The warden at the prison where the death chamber is situated even tested the gurney by piling 540 pounds of weights on it for two hours.

Post has not presented “sufficient evidence demonstrating that his obesity or other physical conditions will present a substantial risk that his execution cannot be conducted in a humane and dignified manner,” Assistant Attorney General Charles Wille said in court papers.

In 2007, it took Ohio executioners about two hours to insert IVs into the veins of condemned killer Christopher Newton, who weighed about 265 pounds.

A federal judge in Columbus will hold a hearing on Post’s claim later this month.

Post’s case is not without precedent: In 1994, a federal judge in Washington state ruled that convicted killer Mitchell Rupe, at more than 400 pounds, was too heavy to be hanged because he might be decapitated. After numerous court rulings and a third trial, Rupe was sentenced to life in prison, where he died in 2006.

If Post manages to stop his execution because of his weight, the legal precedent may not be far-reaching, because of the very small number of death row inmates who are that obese, said Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor and expert on lethal injection. And she said it is unlikely prisoners would begin over-eating to try to fend off execution.