Ohio executes killer who stabbed, mutilated woman

ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS AP Legal Affairs Writer Published:

LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio carried out its 49th execution of the modern era smoothly while facing the possibility of a protracted legal battle ahead of the 50th execution next year.

Brett Hartman was declared dead at 10:34 a.m. Tuesday, about 17 minutes after the single powerful dose of pentobarbital began flowing into his veins.

"I'm good, let's roll," Hartman said after declining a final statement.

He then smiled in the direction of his sister and repeatedly gave her, a friend and his attorney a "thumbs up" with his left hand.

"This is not going to defeat me," Hartman then said to warden Donald Morgan, who didn't respond.

Hartman was sentenced to die for stabbing Winda Snipes of Akron 138 times, slitting her throat and cutting off her hands.

The effect of the pentobarbital did not seem as immediate as in other executions at the state prison in Lucasville, in southern Ohio. Four minutes after Hartman first appeared to be reacting to it as his abdomen began to rise and fall, his abdomen rose and fell again, he coughed and his head shifted rhythmically for a few moments.

His sister, Diane Morretti, dabbed at her eyes during the process.

Both Hartman's attorney, David Stebbins, and prisons system spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said the gap between Hartman's movements was not out of the ordinary.

Hartman was the 49th inmate put to death since Ohio resumed executions in 1999.

The next inmate scheduled to die, Ronald Post, weighs more than 400 pounds and wants his execution stopped out of fear he would suffer severe pain as executioners tried to access his veins, which his attorneys argue would be all but impossible because of his weight.

Post also says his weight could break the gurney in the death chamber. The state disputes Post's claims, and even went so far as to place 540 pounds of weights on the gurney for two hours to prove him wrong.

Hartman, 38, acknowledged that he had sex with Snipes early on the morning of Sept. 9, 1997 at her Akron apartment. He also says he went back to Snipes' apartment later that day, found her mutilated body and panicked, trying to clean up the mess before calling 911.

But Hartman said he didn't kill her, a claim rejected by numerous courts over the years.

A former co-worker and friend of Snipes who witnessed the execution said afterward that the family was relieved the case was over and that the continuous rounds of appeals and media reports about the case were at an end. Jacqueline Brown of Doylestown in northeast Ohio also flatly dismissed Hartman's innocence claim.

"He's very, very, very guilty," she said afterward. "Now Winda can be at peace, and that's what it's all about."

Stebbins read a statement from Hartman's family in which they professed his innocence and asked for additional testing of scene evidence.

"We hope that the taking of Brett's innocent life might serve as a wake-up call to the flaws in our legal system," the statement said.


Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

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