State: There’s enough drug to execute ’96 killer

By Marc Kovac


While state prison officials say they will have enough of the drug used in lethal injections for next month’s execution of Mahoning County murderer Sidney Cornwell, they’re poised to act if a national shortage of the drug continues into 2011.

“We are aware there’s a national shortage of thiopental sodium,” said Julie Walburn, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. “It’s impacting a number of states that have a lethal-injection protocol. At this point for calendar year 2010, we have this execution and one more execution scheduled. We don’t foresee any issues with carrying out those executions on schedule.”

But Walburn would not comment on the specific quantities of the drug it has on hand for 2011. Executions are scheduled for February and March, and prison officials are reviewing additional potential execution dates monthly through October.

“If, for some reason, inventory becomes problematic, we would have to make a decision at that time to request a reprieve from the governor for any executions that may be impacted,” she said.

Walburn discussed the issue Wednesday during a press briefing before the execution of Michael Benge at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

Cornwell is scheduled to be put to death Nov. 16 for the 1996 gang-related killing of a 3-year-old girl in Youngstown.

According to court documents, Cornwell and other members of a neighborhood gang drove up to an apartment on Oak Park Lane with the intention of shooting a rival gang member in retaliation for an earlier incident.

After learning that the intended victim was not at the residence, Cornwell opened fire, killing Jessica Ballew and wounding three adults, according to documents.

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