By ED RUNYAN
Despite years of being a Trumbull County Victim-Witness advocate and making five trips to Lucasville in recent years, Miriam Fife had never witnessed an execution until Tuesday.
After watching Roderick Davie of Warren die Tuesday morning for killing two people in Warren in 1991 and nearly killing a third, she doesn’t believe any further controversy should follow the state’s execution method — lethal injection.
“That is the most peaceful way in the world to die,” she said Wednesday after returning to Trumbull County from the state’s death house in Lucasville.
Fife’s own son, Raymond, was murdered at age 12 in 1985, and one of her son’s killers, Danny Lee Hill, waits on death row.
Fife said she prayed before she entered the execution viewing room for one thing: That Davie would apologize to Sandy Richmond, mother of murder victim Tracey Jefferys; the family of murder victim John Coleman; and William Everett, the victim who survived the attack.
Fife got her wish, as Davie said he was sorry.
Davie then looked up at the ceiling as shunts were inserted into a vein in each arm, and a lethal drug was administered.
As the drug began to enter his body, Davie turned his head back toward the families and mouthed, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Fife said. “He closed his eyes and went to sleep.”
“That moment gave me the absolute knowledge that there is no cruel and unusual punishment in lethal injection,” Fife said.
Fife’s Victim-Witness office is in the Trumbull courthouse and is part of the county prosecutor’s office. She traveled to Lucasville for the executions of Jason Getsy of Hubbard last August and Kenneth Biros of Brookfield in December, and is aware that defense lawyers argued vigorously for several years that lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment.
She went to the Getsy and Biros executions to assist family members of the victims, but she didn’t witness the executions.
An aborted Ohio execution in September 2009 that took nearly two hours because officials couldn’t find a usable vein led Ohio to change its execution method from a three-drug cocktail to a one-drug method and a backup protocol that injects the drug into a muscle for those whose veins are hard to access.
Fife said it’s true that it sometimes takes several tries to get a shunt or needle into someone’s arm, but that is no different than what any patient is likely to experience when they are in a hospital preparing for surgery or donating blood.
“There’s no big deal to get the needle in. It happens every day,” she said. “I will never be convinced there is any inhumanity involved in it.”
Fife said she sat with Sandy Richmond and her husband and witnessed Tuesday’s execution because she is a good friend of Sandy Richmond’s.
Fife said she didn’t think about Danny Lee Hill while watching Davie’s death.
And though she is glad that Davie showed mercy to the victims of his murders and attempted murder, there is a “fine line” separating the forgiveness a murderer can receive from the victim’s family and the punishment a murderer deserves.
“I think the punishment they get for that crime is the right punishment,” she said of the death penalty, regardless of whether the victim and murderer accept each other.
Fife said she thinks a person who has committed murder can’t be allowed to return to society. “Those types of people don’t really stop,” she said.
The second man convicted of killing Raymond Fife was Tim Combs, who was sentenced to 46 years to life in prison.
Combs is not eligible for the death penalty because he was a minor at the time of the murder.