Executed May 24, 2007 11:53 a.m. by Lethal Injection in Ohio
21st murderer executed in U.S. in 2007
1078th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
2nd murderer executed in Ohio in 2007
26th murderer executed in Ohio since 1976
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Christopher J. Newton
W / M / 32 - 37
W / M / 27
State v. Newton, 108 Ohio St.3d 13, 840 N.E.2d 593 (Ohio 2006). (Direct Appeal)
Steak, asparagus, brussels sprouts, feta cheese, a soft drink, cake and watermelon.
"I sure could use a beef stew and a chicken bone."
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (Executions)
Inmate: Newton Christopher C
County of Conviction: Richland
Date of Offense: 11/15/01
Date of Admission: 2/11/03, 10/18/99
Institution: Southern Ohio Correctional Facility
Convictions: BURGLARY, WEAPON UNDER DISABILITY, RSP, ATTEMPTED AGG BURGLARY, ATTEMPTED ESCAPE, AGG MURDER
BURGLARY - Committing County: ASHLAND - Admission Date: 10/18/1999
WEAPON UNDER DISABILITY - Committing County: ASHLAND - Admission Date: 10/18/1999
RSP - Committing County: ASHLAND - Admission Date: 10/18/1999
ATTEMPTED AGG BURGLARY - Committing County: SANDUSKY - Admission Date: 10/18/1999
ATTEMPTED ESCAPE - Committing County: CUYAHOGA - Admission Date: 04/24/2000
AGG MURDER - Committing County: RICHLAND - Admission Date: 02/11/2003
State of Ohio Adult Parole Authority - Clemency
Death Penalty Clemency Report
In re Christopher J. Newton Manci #378-452
Akron Beacon Journal
"Timeline of Newton execution." (Associated Press Fri, May. 25, 2007)
The execution by injection of Christopher Newton on Thursday took nearly two hours, longer than any since Ohio reinstated the death penalty in 1999. Here is a timeline of the procedure, which begins with a shunt being placed in each of the inmate's arms, compiled from the prison log and a reporter's observations from the witness viewing area.
10:03 a.m.: Execution team visible on witness-area TV screen beginning work on Newton.
10:10 a.m.: After unsuccessfully trying insertion points on both arms, technicians begin exploring the upper and lower portions of Newton's arms, inner and outer elbows, wrists, and hands, as well as his right leg, tapping and massaging in their attempts to find spots to insert the shunts. He was stuck with needles at least 10 times.
10:27 a.m.: IV is inserted in left arm. Medical staff continues working on right arm.
10:56 a.m.: In the viewing chamber, where witnesses are discouraged from talking, prisons spokeswoman Andrea Dean holds up a note to reporters: "We have told the team to take their time. His size is creating a problem."
10:58 a.m.: Medical team exits chamber for two minutes.
11:03 a.m.: Preparations reach the one-hour mark.
11:05 a.m.: Newton is given a two-minute bathroom break.
11:28 a.m.: IV inserted in right arm.
11:33 a.m.: Newton walks from the medical chamber into the death chamber. He is visible to witnesses through a glass partition.
11:36 a.m.: Strapped to the gurney with lines now attached, Newton delivers his final statement into a microphone. He talks and laughs with two attending officials, inaudible to witnesses, for another three minutes.
11:37 a.m.: Signal given for chemicals to begin flowing.
11:39 a.m.: Newton's eyes close.
11:40 a.m.: Newton's belly begins to heave, his chin and face shudder and twitch, and his body twice mildly convulses on the table within his restraints.
11:45 a.m.: Movements stop.
11:51 a.m.: Curtain between witnesses and death chamber is pulled for coroner examination.
11:53 a.m.: Newton declared dead.
"Ohio executes man who killed prison cellmate," by Jim Leckrone. (Thu May 24, 2007)
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - The state of Ohio on Thursday put to death a man who killed his prison cellmate, after executioners worked for more than an hour to find the right veins in which to inject lethal chemicals.
Christopher Newton was the 19th person put to death in the United States this year and the 1,077th since the United States restored executions in 1976.
Andrea Dean, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Corrections, said Newton was obese and staff had been told in advance to take as much time as needed to locate the proper sites for the injection.
Ohio had a problem with lethal injection in 2006 after a condemned man's vein collapsed and he woke up telling his executioners the drugs were not working. After finding another vein, that execution was completed.
Lethal injection, by far the most common method of execution in the United States, has been under attack as cruel and unusual punishment, amid claims that the condemned may suffer excruciating pain.
After Newton, 37, was finally wheeled into the death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, his last words were: "I sure could use a beef stew and a chicken bone."
He had waived all appeals and said he wanted to die. Newton was serving a sentence for burglary and parole violation in 2001 when he beat and strangled his cellmate, Scott Brewer, after an argument. Given a meal of his choosing on Wednesday night, Newton was served steak, asparagus, brussels sprouts, feta cheese, a soft drink, cake and watermelon.
"Prisoner executed after IV lines cause delay," by Alan Johnson. (Friday, May 25, 2007 3:28 AM)
LUCASVILLE, Ohio -- It took so long to hook up Christopher J. Newton's lethal injection IV that the condemned man had to ask for a bathroom break. For 90 minutes yesterday, from about 10 to 11:30 a.m., paramedics working in cramped quarters in the Death House at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility struggled to tap veins with intravenous lines so that Newton could be put to death.
Finally, the lines were secured and the deadly chemicals did their job. Newton, 37, was declared dead at 11:53 a.m. Prison officials said the lengthy delay, the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999, was attributable to Newton's size. At 6 feet tall and 265 pounds, Newton was obese and had deeply buried veins.
At one point, Newton asked and was permitted to use the restroom for two minutes before paramedics went back to work. Eventually, they secured sites in both arms. The previous longest delay, one hour, came during the execution of Joseph Clark on May 2 last year. Paramedics attached a single IV to Clark's arm, but when the vein collapsed, Clark tried to rise off the table and said several times, "It don't work."
Through it all yesterday, Newton smiled, joked with prison personnel and did what a witness described as "belly laughs" on the lethal injection table.
A high-school dropout from Huron, Ohio, who began his life of crime by stealing candy bars as a boy, Newton was executed for killing his cellmate, Jason Brewer, 27. Newton beat and strangled Brewer, whom he outweighed by 100 pounds, on Nov. 15, 2001, after they argued over a chess game.
Newton, who had a history of mental-health problems, said he was mad because Brewer kept giving up before the chess game was over.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio released a statement yesterday urging a swift halt to capital punishment in Ohio because of problems with the Newton and Clark cases. "Having one botched execution is too many; that Ohio has now had two botched executions in one year is intolerable," the ACLU said.
Likewise, Ohioans to Stop Executions called it "inhumane treatment" and urged Gov. Ted Strickland to stop all executions. In an interview, Strickland told The Dispatch that he was "personally satisfied that everything that was done during that process" showed consideration for the inmate. He said the event "is not a justification for a change of position regarding the death penalty in Ohio." Strickland, who monitored the execution from his Statehouse office, added, "It's a sad and tragic thing when any human life is lost."
Terry Collins, director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said the IV problems were handled in line with procedural changes he made after Clark's execution. "We told them, 'Take your time, be comfortable, and do your job,' " Collins said.
Dr. Jonathan Groner, trauma medical director at Children's Hospital and a longtime critic of execution procedures, said the lengthy process equated to "torturing someone to death with needles." "From a human-rights perspective, it's not acceptable."
Newton's last words, "Boy, I could sure go for some beef stew and a chicken bone," were apparently a message to friends on Death Row, officials said. Robert K. Lowe, Newton's public-defender attorney, later read a statement from his client in which Newton apologized to Brewer's family and said, "If I could take it back, I would."
Cleveland Plain Dealer
"16-minute execution raises concerns," by Julie Carr Smyth. (Saturday, May 26, 2007)
Columbus- The 16 minutes it took for Christopher Newton to die once injected with lethal chemicals was the longest stretch of any inmate for whom records have been kept since 1999, an Associated Press review of prison records shows.
During that span Thursday, Newton's stomach heaved, his chin quivered and twitched, and his body twice mildly convulsed within its restraints. Other inmates died within an average of 7.5 minutes.
Newton's unusual amount of movement, when combined with the event's duration, raised new questions Friday among death penalty critics already alarmed by the 90 minutes it took to find suitable veins through which to send Newton his lethal cocktail.
Ohio State University surgeon John Groener, a death penalty opponent, said the second of three drugs contained in the cocktail should have paralyzed Newton, rather than allowing the five minutes of movement witnesses to his execution observed.
State prison officials said there was no connection between the 90 minutes of poking with needles Newton underwent beforehand and his movement on the table. Newton died two hours after his execution was scheduled to begin, the longest delay since Ohio resumed executions in 1999.
Prisons spokeswoman Andrea Dean said Newton's obesity - he was 6 feet, 265 pounds - explains both the difficulty in accessing his veins and the motion visible in the execution chamber. "The only movement I saw was you could see his chest moving and then his lower lip was quivering," said Dean, who was present at the event Thursday. "The warden told us he was snoring."
Akron Beacon Journal
"Execution delay longest in recent Ohio history; Medical staff set back two hours struggling to find veins on 265-pound inmate who killed cellmate," by Julie Carr Smyth. (Associated Press Fri, May. 25, 2007)
LUCASVILLE - A man was executed Thursday after a delay longer than any other since Ohio resumed executions in 1999 because of problems with the lethal injection, which he had insisted on as punishment for beating and choking a cellmate to death.
Christopher Newton, 37, died at 11:53 a.m. at the Southern Ohio Correction Facility, about two hours after the scheduled start of his execution for killing the cellmate after arguing over a chess game.
Newton weighed 265 pounds, according to a physical Wednesday, and prison medical staff struggled to find veins on each arm. The execution team stuck him at least 10 times with needles to get in place the shunts where the needles are injected.
He continued to talk, smile and laugh with the prison staff; sometimes his belly would jiggle. At one point, he was given a bathroom break. When he eventually was moved from his holding cell and strapped to a table in the death chamber, he made this short statement: ``Yes, boy, I could sure go for some beef stew and a chicken bone. That's it.''
In a written statement read by public defender Robert Lowe after the execution, Newton apologized to his victim's family. ``If I could take it back, I would,'' the statement said. ``To my family, I love you and I'm sorry.''
The next-longest delay of an Ohio execution was last May when Joseph Clark died 90 minutes after his scheduled execution time. Prison staff had problems tapping a vein in the longtime-intravenous drug user's arm. Executions have typically taken about 20 minutes.
A group of Ohio inmates is suing over the state's injection method, saying it is unconstitutionally cruel. Problems with injections have caused delays in other states, including one in Florida in December when an inmate needed a second dose of deadly chemicals, which prompted Gov. Jeb Bush to suspend all executions in the state as a commission examines its lethal injection process.
Newton, who spent much of his adult life in prison, knew killing cellmate Jason Brewer in 2001 was a capital crime and refused to cooperate with investigators unless they sought the death penalty against him, court documents said.
Newton himself even claimed in an interview last month that he had intentionally gotten himself put back in prison by leaving behind a handprint during a 1999 break-in at his father's house.
``He's certainly the epitome of a volunteer,'' said Leo Jennings, a spokesman for Attorney General Marc Dann.
"WESTERHOLD: State killed Newton, erased his victim." (Sunday May 27 2007, 3:39am)
Former Huron resident Christopher Newton was a dead man talking and a dead man laughing before he became a dead man walking and then a dead man waiting.
Newton walked the 17 steps from the death row holding cell to the death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville on Thursday, about a month after he spoke with a Register reporter and said he was anxious for the state to kill him. But once in the death chamber, the state's executioners had difficulty finding a vein in the obese man's arms suitable for the shunts that would pump the lethal injection into his body.
Why the state allows a death row inmate to become obese escapes me.
The difficulty led to a nearly two-hour delay that included a bathroom break for the convicted killer before the executioners successfully placed the shunts and began pumping the lethal drug combo into his body. Newton finally got his death wish at 11:53 a.m. Thursday.
In the end, however, Newton's execution was nothing more than a state-assisted suicide. And as appalling as that is, it gets worse. The state also acted as an accomplice in the 2001 murder that landed Newton on death row.
The state became culpable when prison guards placed 27-year-old, 130-pound Jason Brewer into a cell with the 200-plus-pound Newton. Those guards should have known better, according to a state Parole Board report. "Mr. Newton planned the offense. He purposely arranged to be placed in protective custody, and even more importantly, he manipulated the situation in order to be placed in the cell with Jason Brewer," the report states.
It's striking that a prison inmate could so easily manipulate prison guards in order to carry out his plan to kill. Newton choked and stomped Brewer to death and then drank the victim's blood, smearing it on his face. But the state's complicity is worse yet.
Jason Brewer -- Newton's victim -- was a baby born to a world that just didn't care. It didn't care when he was alive, and it didn't care after he was dead. The details of Brewer's life are sketchy -- almost as if they had been swept under the rug -- but state officials did release some information.
Brewer was molested in his childhood home and became a ward of the state. A Lucas County Children Services agency employee adopted him, but in short order began molesting Brewer. The adoptive father was convicted on charges related to the molestation in 1986.
Before he was murdered, Brewer bounced from foster home to foster home and by 1994, when he was just (about) 20, Brewer faced a hefty prison sentence on an attempted aggravated burglary conviction. His public defender told the Register the judge in Brewer's case handed down a draconian sentence because the general mood at that time was a crackdown on crime.
Society was safe, but Brewer, who never got one break in life, was not. This small man who had been a victim all his life was made a perpetual victim in prison. A victim to the very end.
The state's bad behavior seems to never have been addressed. State prison authorities could not even provide the Register a photo of Brewer even though he'd been an inmate in their facilities for more than five years. The state couldn't provide information regarding the crimes Brewer had committed. There was even a current outstanding arrest warrant out of Maumee for Brewer's arrest, nearly six years after his grisly murder at the hands of Christopher Newton.
Newton killed, he said, because he wanted to be on death row. In the end, maybe he got what he deserved Thursday. But the state's complicity in Brewer's death, and the fact that his killer wanted to die, are reasons enough to question the state's actions.
Combine these with the miserable failure of the state's child welfare system in caring for the abused child that Brewer was, it makes me question whether this government, or any government, should ever have the power to kill. The state botched its responsibility to care for Brewer when he was a child no one cared for; it botched his incarceration; and it botched his killer's execution.
The only thing state officials seem to have done effectively is making sure the details of Brewer's life disappeared. And that's not right.
"Ohio Inmate Took Twice as Long to Die; AP NewsBreak: Chemicals Took More Than Twice Usual Time to Execute Ohio Killer," by Julie Carr. (Associated Press May 26, 2007)
The 16 minutes it took Christopher Newton to die once chemicals began flowing into his veins was the longest stretch that any of the state's inmates executed since 1999 has endured, an Associated Press review shows.
During that span Thursday more than twice as long as usual, and 5 minutes longer than the state's previous longest on record Newton's stomach heaved, his chin quivered and twitched, and his 6-foot, 265-pound body twice mildly convulsed within the restraints.
State prison records show that other Ohio inmates died within an average of 7 minutes, 30 seconds, and that the entire process typically takes about 20 minutes. The state did not compile that information for two inmates.
The execution team at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville stuck Newton at least 10 times with needles to find suitable veins for the shunts where the chemicals are injected. He died nearly two hours after the scheduled start of his execution.
Newton's unusual amount of movement and the time it took him to die raised new questions Friday among death penalty critics already alarmed by the problems that delayed his execution. "It seems too long," Ohio State University surgeon Jonathan Groner said. "The whole thing seems agonizing."
Newton had insisted on the death penalty as punishment for choking and beating Jason Brewer, 27, his cellmate at the Mansfield Correctional Center, over a chess game in 2001.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio asked the state Thursday to halt executions, but prison officials said Friday that Newton's execution was properly handled and considered successful. They planned no investigation or autopsy.
The second of three drugs should have paralyzed Newton rather than allowing the five minutes of movement witnesses to his execution could observe, Groner said. "That would suggest that the second drug of the three-drug protocol was not being effective," he said. "It's rapidly effective within 90 seconds. It paralyzes the muscles and stops the lungs."
Groner said the two minutes between the warden's signal to start the chemicals and Newton appearing to lose consciousness, and the total time that elapsed before his death, also suggest that the chemicals may not have been flowing properly, or in the proper doses.
State prisons officials blocked out the doses of sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride in records provided Friday to the AP. Andrea Dean, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said that she did not know whether doses are modified based on an inmate's weight and that only the execution team knows dosage amounts.
Newton's obesity explains the difficulty in accessing his veins and the motion visible in the execution chamber, Dean said. "When Newton got to Lucasville, he told us himself that his veins sat really deep. We did checks and we saw veins," said Dean, who was present during the execution. "He was thick, and his veins sat deep."
Dean said rules put in place after the botched execution of Joseph Clark last May, in which Clark sat up on the table to tell his executioners the process wasn't working, give prison employees the ability to slow down and do a professional job. "The team took as much time as needed to find good veins," she said. "In our mind, the process worked. There was no artificial time line to hurry up and find veins."
Carrie Davis, staff attorney for the ACLU of Ohio, said her group is gathering information on the execution and considering legal action.
In Florida, after an unusually long delay in the Dec. 13 execution of Angel Diaz, 55, then-Gov. Jeb Bush created an 11-member panel to find out what had caused his death to take 34 minutes twice as long as usual and to recommend steps to prevent future delays that were similar. That panel has completed its work, and current Gov. Charlie Crist has allowed executions to resume.
On 11/15/01, Christopher J. Newton murdered his cellmate, 27-year-old Jason Brewer, at the Mansfield Correctional Institution. The two men got into an argument over a game of chess when Newton attacked Brewer and began hitting him in the face. He then tied a piece of rope around his neck and stuck a gag down his throat. When Newton realized that Brewer was still alive, he cut a piece of cloth and strangled him with it. Newton wrote out a detailed confession to the murder before he killed Brewer.
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
Ohioans to Stop Executions
List of individuals executed in Ohio
A total of 26 individuals convicted of murder have been executed by the U.S. state of Ohio since 1976. All were executed by lethal injection.
Wilford Berry, Jr. (19 February 1999) Charles Mitroff
Jay D. Scott (14 June 2001) Vinnie M. Price
John William Byrd, Jr. (19 February 2002) Monte Tewksbury
Alton Coleman (26 April 2002) Tonnie Storey and Marlene Walters
Robert Anthony Buell (24 September 2002) Krista Lea Harrison
Richard Edwin Fox (February 12, 2003) Leslie Renae Keckler
David M. Brewer (April 29, 2003) Sherry Byrne
Ernest Martin (June 18, 2003) Robert Robinson
Lewis Williams, Jr. (14 January 2004) Leoma Chmielewski
John Glenn Roe (3 February 2004) Donette Crawford
William Dean Wickline (30 March 2004) Peggy and Christopher Lerch
William G. Zuern, Jr. (8 June 2004) Phillip Pence
Stephen Allan Vrabel (14 July 2004) Susan Clemente and Lisa Clemente
Scott Andrew Mink (July 20, 2004) William Mink and Sheila Mink
Adremy Dennis (October 13, 2004) Kurt Kyle
William Smith (March 8, 2005) Mary Bradford
Herman Dale Ashworth (27 September 2005) Daniel L. Baker
William James Williams, Jr. (25 October 2005) William Dent, Alfonda R. Madison, Sr., Eric Howard and Theodore Wynn Jr.
John R. Hicks (29 November 2005) Brandy Green
Glenn L. Benner II (7 February 2006) Trina Bowser, Cynthia Sedgwick
Joseph L. Clark (4 May 2006) David Manning
Rocky Barton (12 July 2006)
Darrell Ferguson (8 August 2006) David A. Gowdown, Dennis J. Langer, Jeffrey M. Welbaum
Jeffrey Lundgren (24 October 2006) Dennis Avery, Cheryl Avery, Trina Avery, Rebecca Avery, Karen Avery
James J. Filiaggi (24 April 2007) Lisa Huff Filiaggi
Christopher J. Newton (24 May 2007) Jason Brewer
Ohio Death Penalty Information (Christopher J. Newton)
State v. Newton, 108 Ohio St.3d 13, 840 N.E.2d 593 (Ohio 2006). (Direct Appeal)
Background: Following waiver of jury trial and his plea of guilty, defendant was convicted by a three-judge panel in the Court of Common Pleas, Richland County, No. 02-CR-48H, of aggravated murder with prior calculation and design, for which he received a sentence of death. Defendant appealed.
Holdings: The Supreme Court, Pfeifer, J., held that:
(1) defendant was not entitled to have trial court weigh aggravating circumstance without giving any consideration to facts surrounding it;
(2) denial of funds to defendant for him to undergo neuro-psychiatric testing did not violate his due process rights;
(3) defendant's waiver of his right to jury trial was knowing and intelligent;
(4) there was no plain error with respect to prosecutor's introduction of evidence during penalty phase that defendant celebrated anniversary of his killing of his prison cellmate;
(5) defense counsel did not render ineffective assistance;
(6) nature and circumstances of murder defendant's crime offered no mitigating features;
(7) defendant's cooperation with law enforcement in its investigation and his plea of guilty to aggravated murder was substantial mitigating factor; and
(8) imposition of death penalty was appropriate. Affirmed.
Between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. on November 15, 2001, defendant-appellant, Christopher J. Newton, an inmate at the Mansfield Correctional Institution (“MANCI”), beat and strangled his cellmate, Jason Brewer, causing his death. A grand jury indicted Newton for the aggravated murder of Brewer with prior calculation and design, R.C. 2903.01(A). A single R.C. 2929.04(A)(4) death-penalty specification alleged that Newton had committed the murder while he was under detention.
Newton waived a jury trial and elected to be tried by a three-judge panel. Newton pleaded guilty as charged, and the state presented evidence establishing his guilt as required by R.C. 2945.06 and Crim.R. 11(C)(3). The panel found Newton guilty as charged. Following a penalty-phase hearing, the panel imposed the death penalty.
State's Guilt-Phase Evidence
In June 1992, Newton was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison for attempted aggravated burglary. Within a few weeks of his release on parole in 1999, he broke into his father's house. As a result, his parole was revoked, and he was sentenced to an additional concurrent eight-to-15-year prison sentence. In August 1999, Newton told a mental-health professional that he was going to kill someone in prison so that he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
On October 16, 2001, Newton, claiming that another inmate had threatened to stab him, requested that he be placed in protective custody. He was assigned to cell 115 with Brewer in a section of MANCI reserved for inmates who request special protection. Brewer was 27 years old, five feet, 11 inches tall, and weighed 130 pounds. Newton was 32 years old, five feet, 11 inches tall, and weighed between 195 and 225 pounds.
On November 15, 2001, around 5:10 a.m., MANCI correctional officers (“COs”) Gregory Ditmars, John Vesper, and Shane Douglas responded to a disturbance in cell 115. Brewer was lying still on the floor in a puddle of blood with a piece of orange cloth wrapped around his neck. Newton was laughing and had blood smeared all over his face. MANCI nurse Trena Butcher testified that when she examined Newton, he told her that he had “painted himself with the victim's blood and had also ingested the victim's blood as part of the ritual when you kill someone.”
MANCI nurse Diane Burson testified that when she responded to cell 115, Brewer was not breathing and had no pulse. Burson and responding paramedics worked diligently, and eventually Brewer's heart began to beat. Ditmars testified that while medical personnel were trying to save Brewer's life, Newton was laughing and yelling, “ ‘Let him die. I killed him.’ ” According to Douglas, Newton said, “ ‘[F]uck that bitch [Brewer]. You might as well not even work on him. He is already dead.’ ” Nurse Butcher recalls Newton periodically shouting to the paramedics, “ ‘Stop, let the fucker die.’ ” State Highway Patrol Trooper Doug Hamman described Newton as singing, “ ‘[T]here is nothing like the taste of fresh blood in the morning.’ ”
Newton told Ditmars that he had killed his cellmate and had drunk his blood. Vesper recalled Newton's saying that he had killed Brewer by choking him and beating his head on the floor. Douglas testified that Newton said that he had hit Brewer earlier that night and had seen the fear in his eyes and knew he was going to kill Brewer before the night was over.
After paramedics established a heartbeat, Brewer was taken to MedCentral Hospital, then flown to the Ohio State University Medical Center, where he was declared brain dead around 2:30 p.m. After an autopsy, Dr. Dorothy Dean, a forensic pathologist, concluded that Brewer had died from a ligature strangulation. Brewer also suffered other injuries to his head and body consistent with his having been kicked or stomped on.
After the assault, Newton told Lieutenant Hilbert Mealey, a MANCI CO, that he had allowed Brewer to lie dead for an hour in the cell because Newton knew that paramedics would try to save his life. Newton told Mealey that he had more fun in prison than on the outside. MANCI Lieutenant Joe Albert recalled that Newton had seemed very happy and had repeatedly asked, “ ‘Did I kill him? Is he dead?’ ” Newton also said, “[I]f he is not dead, I hope he is going to be a vegetable.”
Although Albert did not want to interview him, Newton was adamant about making a statement. Albert advised Newton of his Miranda rights, and Newton waived them. Newton described how he had choked and assaulted Brewer starting around 3:45 a.m. Using a razor blade, Newton had cut a strip off an orange jumpsuit and had used that strip to strangle Brewer.
In Newton's cell, COs found four letters addressed to various prison officials, dated November 14, in which Newton stated that he had lied to obtain protective custody. He stated that his real reason for requesting protective custody was to “take care of a little problem,” and the job was now done. Newton authenticated the letters by his bloody fingerprints and referred to himself as “Satan's Messenger, 666.”
On the morning of the murder, November 15, Trooper Smith advised Newton of his Miranda rights, and Newton signed a written waiver of those rights. Newton told Smith that another inmate had hired him to beat up Brewer and that at around 10:00 p.m. the previous evening, while he and Brewer were playing chess, they argued, and then he struck Brewer. They both stayed awake, and Newton spent time making a rope so that he could strangle Brewer. Around 3:30 a.m., as Brewer was going to sleep, Newton pulled Brewer out of bed and hit his head against the floor and stomped on his head twice. Newton then strangled Brewer with the rope he had made, until it broke. Newton punched Brewer in the face a few times and then cut a strip off a prison jumpsuit and strangled Brewer with it. Then Newton stomped on Brewer's head again.
Although Brewer begged, “Please don't kill me,” Newton estimates that he stomped Brewer's head with his foot between five and ten times. He also stomped on his throat and chest a few times. After Newton finished assaulting Brewer, he smeared Brewer's blood on his face and licked the blood off his hands. After 30 minutes or so, he called to a CO and said, “[W]elcome to the house of death!” Newton also stated that he knew he would die in prison and hoped for the death penalty. On November 18, Newton wrote an 11-page letter relating details of the murder. In a Highway Patrol interview on November 19, 2001, Newton admitted that he had lied in claiming that an inmate had hired him to assault Brewer. He had never met or heard of Brewer before they were placed in the cell together. Newton said that he and Brewer had been sexually intimate, and that when he woke up Brewer that night, he had said, “Jason, come here. I'm horny.” According to Newton, Brewer ignored him, which made Newton angry. Although Newton had already decided to kill Brewer, he said that he “needed that kicker [the refusal] * * * to start, start the rage.” At the guilt phase of the trial, Newton, after pleading guilty, presented no evidence.
Defense Penalty-Phase Evidence
At the penalty phase, the defense asserted that Newton's background and his mental illness were mitigating factors.
Newton's brother David Newton and his sister, Lisa Newton, described Newton as the youngest of five sons and one daughter born to Jean and Lynn Newton. Their parents worked opposite shifts, and their mother operated an antique store and was also frequently gone. Their parents communicated with each other only by yelling or arguing. Their father was strict and imposed discipline with a belt, but their permissive mother did not follow through on punishments that had been imposed.
According to David, their father had little patience with Newton, whom David described as a “lost and disturbed” child with “bizarre” behavior. Newton was impulsive, and his very few friends were “misfits.” Newton's mother spoiled the children and was overprotective, particularly with Newton. Whenever Newton misbehaved, their mother always blamed the other children.
The children used drugs and drank heavily. David testified that he “was in fights continuously all through junior high” and took drugs and drank heavily for years. But David admitted that none of his other siblings were in prison and that they all worked for a living.
Lisa describes the Newton family household as constantly in turmoil, with verbal, physical, and mental abuse and arguing. Their mother was very religious but very lenient, and their father was very harsh, imposing discipline in the house by severely whipping the children with a belt. Because their parents were frequently absent, the children did whatever they wanted. Lisa also testified that her father had abused her sexually when she was a teenager.
Newton was different from the other children when he was growing up, and he started getting into trouble at a very early age. When the family went on vacation, they left Newton to stay with their grandmother. The other children called Newton “Pyro” because he had set their home on fire when he was five or six years old, causing the family to live elsewhere for six months.
Lisa claimed that because of her childhood, she has been in counseling for many years. She admitted that despite inconsistent parenting, their parents worked steadily and provided food and shelter for their children. Their mother also tried to get treatment for Newton at different facilities while he was growing up. Between the ages of 13 and 15, Newton attended the Barker Alternative School in Sandusky, Ohio, which educated children with severe behavioral or emotional problems. Mary Churchwell, then a teacher's aide at the alternative school, recalled that Newton had been very impulsive and “thrived on being different and * * * being the class clown, so he didn't form any lasting relationships.” Newton also engaged in bizarre behavior and laughed at inappropriate times. At times, Newton was withdrawn, and at other times, he acted silly. Churchwell said that she had noticed that Newton began to “pattern himself after another student who claimed to believe in Satan worship.”
Toni Deluca, a counselor at the school, also described Newton as “the class clown.” Although Newton was not violent or physically aggressive, he never fit in with other children. Newton's parents were not involved in his schooling, and Churchwell and Deluca never met them. Newton left the school suddenly in 1985.
Records at the Berea Children's Home, a juvenile-detention facility, indicate that Newton, then 15 1/2 years old, was admitted for residential treatment in May 1985 at the direction of the juvenile court. The records note that Newton's “past behavior in society was not only unacceptable but bizarre, threatening, and aggressive. * * * His history of sexual acting out was of great concern.” Newton was released to attend a regular high school six months later, having “shown marked improvement.” His grades, classroom behavior, anger, and interaction with peers had all improved, and an aftercare plan had been developed with the assistance of his parents.
Dr. Janice Ort, a clinical psychologist, completed a psychological evaluation of Newton based on interviews, testing, and a comprehensive review of relevant records. Dr. Ort noted that Newton had been “socially, emotionally, and physically immature” throughout his childhood. She testified that according to Newton and his siblings, Newton had been “spoiled rotten” by his mother, who rescued him from any consequences for his acts. His father had been physically abusive and perhaps sexually abusive. At various times in his life, Newton claimed that his father had sexually abused him, but at other times, he denied it. Newton was also bullied by his older siblings. Newton told Ort that he had been sexually abused by one of his brothers when he was five and by a neighbor when he was 11.
While growing up, Newton developed severe behavioral problems, including sexual acting out, theft, and drug and alcohol abuse. The Berea Children's Home had identified him as a very high-risk youth. Newton told Ort that as a teenager, he devoted himself to satanic groups and activities. In 1988, when Newton was 19, he was arrested in Florida for burglary and grand theft. In 1990, 1991, and 1992, he was arrested again for various offenses. Newton was incarcerated from 1992 until 1999, was briefly out on parole, and was then returned to prison.
According to Dr. Ort, Newton has an average IQ, with tests indicating an overall IQ of 106. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory indicated that Newton has a borderline-personality disorder. In Dr. Ort's view, the tests show that Newton came from a “disruptive, chaotic, abusive, and identity damaging childhood.”
But Dr. Ort recognized that Newton is not a reliable historian of his past. He often lies. For example, Newton claimed to have killed 180 people in satanic rituals, he claimed that his father had died (his father is still living), he falsely claimed that while growing up, he had been playing Russian roulette with a revolver when two children were killed, and in 1999, he falsely reported a plot to explode a bomb at Times Square on New Year's Eve. Dr. Ort conceded that over the years, particularly from 1995 to 1999, numerous psychiatrists and psychologists had diagnosed Newton with a variety of psychiatric and mental disorders. Nonetheless, Dr. Ort concluded that Newton was a malingerer. Her conclusion was based on current psychological test data, the observations of mental-health professionals over seven years, and Newton's own admissions that he had falsely reported hearing voices or other psychotic symptoms. Dr. Ort said that, at times, Newton may have attempted to downplay his problems, since he does not want to be seen by others as “damaged” or mentally ill.
According to Dr. Ort, a Rorschach test indicated that Newton has a “significant affective disturbance [which is] basically a mood disorder typically characterized by depression symptoms or symptoms of mania.” Dr. Ort also diagnosed Newton as suffering from polysubstance abuse, a condition that is in complete remission due to Newton's controlled environment; symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”); and a personality disorder with borderline, antisocial, and narcissistic features. In Dr. Ort's view, these conditions collectively represent a severe mental disorder. Newton also has a history of suicide attempts and self-mutilation. But Dr. Ort agreed that Newton does not have a thought disorder and displays no psychotic symptoms or delusions.
At the defense's request, the court accepted into evidence voluminous institutional records relating to Newton. These include a report on a physical and mental examination in September 1999 at the Massillon Psychiatric Center, psychiatric treatment notes for 1992 and 1995 through 2002, medical records from Newton's July 2002 hospital stay for a drug overdose and attempted suicide, hospitalization records from November 28, 2002, to December 2, 2002, for a drug overdose, and psychiatric treatment records for December 6, 2002, to January 3, 2003, from the Oakwood Correctional Facility. At least two items are noteworthy. In February 2001, Dr. Arthur Keith, a prison psychiatrist, concluded that Newton was not seriously mentally ill, but was malingering. He diagnosed Newton as having an antisocial-personality disorder and a substance-abuse disorder that was in remission. Dr. Keith found that Newton had no mental illness that would reduce his responsibility for his misconduct and that no mental-health services or medication was required. Further, the diagnosis of Newton on his discharge from Oakwood in January 2003 was major depression, recurrent, but in remission; PTSD; polysubstance dependence; and a personality disorder (with antisocial traits). The Oakwood records reflect Newton's admission that “he never really had hallucinations and he certainly did not have them at this time.”
Prosecution's Penalty-Phase Rebuttal Evidence
Carol Mull, a licensed independent social worker at MANCI, has known Newton for several years. Mull testified that Newton, throughout his incarceration, has repeatedly claimed to be mentally ill, but then he would later “recant and say he had told us different things * * * because he wanted to fake a mental illness in order to achieve something else.” He liked the psychiatric-treatment unit better than regular prison. He has frequently claimed to hear voices, and he is attention-seeking and manipulative. Mull said that Newton has been refusing medication since December 1999. She also testified that Newton appears to derive pleasure from his notoriety over the murder and continually asks for a cellmate. She said that Newton had been involved in a prison dog-training program before October 2001 and during that time he was very well behaved, stable, and not on medication. Newton currently takes no medication and is stable, and Mull described him as “always smiling and laughing.”
Dr. Miles Oden, a board-certified psychiatrist employed at MANCI, evaluated Newton in December 2001, three weeks after the murder. Oden noted that Newton had a history of psychiatric treatment because he had reported auditory hallucinations. But Oden testified that Newton had later admitted that he had fabricated symptoms “so he could obtain psychotropic medications, which made him feel high.” Oden also said that Newton admitted that he has a habit of telling lies and then he starts to believe his lies after a period of time.
When Dr. Oden examined Newton in December 2001, Newton was in good health. His thoughts were orderly and his mood was good. He showed no evidence of psychosis, no bipolar condition, and no mood disorder. In Dr. Oden's view, Newton had no significant mental illness that was present at the time of the murder. Although Newton is at risk for self-destructive behavior, Dr. Oden found no reason to treat him with any medication. Dr. Oden also found no evidence that Newton had a thought disorder or psychosis or any difficulty understanding reality. However, Dr. Oden did diagnose Newton as suffering from polysubstance dependence in remission and a mixed personality disorder with antisocial and borderline traits. In Dr. Oden's view, Newton's personality disorder explains his erratic behavior.
Dr. Oden noted that when he saw Newton in December 2001, Newton seemed proud of the murder that he had committed three weeks earlier and took “a certain amount of gruesome pleasure at his notoriety.” When Dr. Oden saw Newton on the anniversary of the murder, November 15, 2002, Newton had made a party hat and a blowout toy to celebrate the anniversary. Dr. Oden reported that Newton appeared happy and was wearing the hat and making jokes about celebrating the anniversary of the murder.
Defense counsel cross-examined Dr. Oden about Newton's medical records from November 1995 to May 2000, which reflected repeated placements in psychiatric-treatment units and past diagnoses of serious mental illnesses such as a schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, a mood disorder, and PTSD. Dr. Oden, however, believed that Newton could have fooled the mental-health professionals who made these diagnoses. Dr. Oden noted that the diagnoses were based on Newton's false reports of symptoms such as auditory hallucinations. In fact, Newton has a well-documented history of malingering and falsely reporting hallucinations. Further, Newton functioned well as a dog handler in 2001 without any medication, and that fact negated finding a schizoaffective disorder.
Dr. Renee Sorrentino, a forensic psychiatrist, examined Newton's mental-health and prison records in depth. Dr. Sorrentino summarized in a comprehensive report Newton's history in various institutions, Dr. Ort's findings, and her own conclusions regarding Newton's mental state. Dr. Sorrentino asked to interview Newton, but was refused access by Newton's attorneys.
In Dr. Sorrentino's view, any earlier diagnosis that Newton suffered from a schizoaffective disorder “was not correct * * * because * * * Newton did not have auditory hallucinations. He made them up.” She explained that a schizoaffective disorder is not curable and does not go away. Further, Dr. Sorrentino concluded that Newton does not have sufficient symptoms to support a diagnosis of a PTSD. Nor do Newton's records reflect criteria to find a major depressive disorder. Dr. Sorrentino's report indicates that she is unclear on the meaning of Dr. Ort's diagnosis of a “mood disorder overlaying * * * a personality disorder.” Dr. Sorrentino believes that Newton's mood symptoms are characteristics of his personality disorders.
In Dr. Sorrentino's opinion, Newton was never psychotic, never lost touch with reality, and has no symptoms of psychosis. In fact, psychological testing indicated “no psychotic process, no impaired reality.” Dr. Sorrentino believes that the earlier diagnosis of a bipolar disorder was simply incorrect because Newton made up symptoms. Newton admitted to Dr. Ort that he had read psychology texts and case studies in order to discover how to fake symptoms of mental illness. Further, Dr. Sorrentino said that the way that Newton described hearing voices was simply “not characteristic of what psychotic patients experience.”
Dr. Sorrentino did agree that Newton has a polysubstance-abuse disorder, which is in full remission because he is in a controlled environment, a documented history of malingering of auditory hallucinations and suicidal intent (although sometimes he actually is suicidal), and an antisocial-personality disorder and borderline-personality traits.
Dr. Sorrentino also noted that antisocial-personality disorder occurs in 60 to 70 percent of male prisoners, substance-abuse disorder occurs in 85 percent of male prisoners, and borderline-personality disorder appears in about 60 percent of male prisoners.
Newton now appeals to our court as a matter of right and presents nine propositions of law for our consideration. We find no merit in any of his propositions. Hence, we affirm the findings of guilt. We have independently weighed the aggravating circumstance against the mitigating factors and have considered the appropriateness of the death sentence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the trial court, including the death sentence.
* * *
INDEPENDENT SENTENCE EVALUATION
After evaluating the evidence, we find that the evidence proves the aggravating circumstance specified in the indictment, namely, R.C. 2929.04(A)(4), that when Newton killed Brewer, Newton was under “detention” as defined in R.C. 2921.01. Newton was an inmate in MANCI, a “public * * * facility for custody of persons * * * convicted of crime in this state.” R.C. 2921.01(E).
As to mitigating evidence, we find that the nature and circumstances of the offense offer no mitigating features. Newton brutally murdered his cellmate by beating and strangling him, and Newton did so after planning the murder. In fact, he had expressed his intention to kill another inmate long before this crime. Newton did not express any particular grievance against Brewer. After he viciously assaulted Brewer, Newton urged paramedics not to attempt to revive his cellmate.
In contrast, we find that Newton's history and background provide some modest mitigating features. Newton's parents did not provide the nurture and guidance that he needed to grow into a mature, stable adult. Thus, in Dr. Ort's view, Newton had a “disruptive, chaotic, abusive, and identity damaging childhood.” Newton's father was unduly harsh, his mother was overprotective, and Newton developed severe behavioral problems as a child and adolescent. Unfortunately, Newton's life as an adult does not merit favorable consideration, since Newton, except for a few weeks in 1999, was in prison for nine years before this offense. But while in prison, Newton did earn a GED certificate and participate in an honors program that prepares dogs for adoption. We find nothing else in Newton's character that warrants favorable consideration.
Newton did not establish by credible evidence that he suffered from a “mental disease or defect” such that he “lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of * * * [his] conduct or to conform [his] conduct to the requirements of the law.” R.C. 2929.04(B)(3).
Newton has a well-documented and admitted history as a malingerer. He has falsified psychiatric symptoms so as to appear to have a serious mental disorder in order to receive special treatment and psychotropic drugs. Dr. Ort, Newton's principal witness, conceded this at trial. Carol Mull, a licensed social worker who has known Newton for several years, described his repeated faking of mental illness. Dr. Oden and Dr. Sorrentino both confirmed that Newton repeatedly feigned mental illness. Newton even read psychology texts and case studies in order to convincingly fake symptoms. Because of his documented history of malingering, we regard past diagnoses of psychiatric disorders in his medical records to be of negligible value.
None of the experts who testified at trial described Newton as exhibiting psychotic symptoms:
Dr. Ort testified that nothing in her interviews with and tests of Newton supported the view that Newton is psychotic. Newton demonstrated an ability to perceive events, interpret the actions of others without distortion, and anticipate the consequences of his actions.
(2) When Dr. Oden interviewed Newton in December 2001, within a month of the murder, Newton was coherent, his thoughts were orderly, and his mood was good. He did not exhibit signs of psychosis, psychotic delusions, PTSD, thought disorder, mood disorder, or a bipolar condition. In Dr. Oden's opinion, Newton's problems “related more to his personality disorder than anything else,” and Newton did not have “any significant mental illness that was present at the time of the murder.”
(3) Dr. Sorrentino concluded that Newton “never was psychotic or lost touch with reality” and “has no symptoms of psychosis.” Further, Dr. Sorrentino found that the psychological testing that was conducted “supports [finding] no psychotic process, no impaired reality testing.”
The expert witnesses agreed on the following: (1) Newton abused various drugs when they were available to him, i.e., when he was not in prison; (2) although Newton has displayed some symptoms of posttraumatic stress, PTSD was not established; and (3) Newton suffers from a personality disorder. Dr. Ort described this as a “Personality Disorder, whose features include Antisocial, Narcissistic, and Borderline traits.” Dr. Oden described it as a mixed personality disorder with antisocial and borderline traits. According to Dr. Sorrentino, Newton has an antisocial-personality disorder with “borderline traits.” Newton's medical records also confirm his personality disorder.
The evidence at trial does not support a diagnosis of serious psychiatric problems. Dr. Ort did assert that Newton suffers from a mood disorder. But according to Dr. Sorrentino, Newton's mood symptoms are simply characteristics of his personality disorder. Thus, Dr. Sorrentino testified that “the mood symptoms, the sadness, the periods of feeling depressed arise from Mr. Newton's personality disorder.” Dr. Oden found no evidence of a mood disorder and concluded that Newton's personality disorder explains a lot of his erratic behavior.
We therefore accord no mitigating weight under R.C. 2929.04(B)(3).
We do not find that the evidence supports any other statutory mitigating factors from R.C. 2929.04(B)(1) through (B)(6). As to “other factors,” R.C. 2929.04(B)(7), Newton's cooperation with the Highway Patrol in its investigation of the murder and his plea of guilty to the offense as charged represents, substantial mitigating factors. As we noted in State v. Ashworth (1999), 85 Ohio St.3d 56, 72, 706 N.E.2d 1231, “guilty pleas are traditionally accorded substantial weight in imposing a sentence.”
We also find that Newton's history of depression, his substance-abuse problems, and his antisocial- or borderline-personality disorder are relevant mitigating factors. Cf. State v. Stojetz, 84 Ohio St.3d at 472, 705 N.E.2d 329 (paranoid schizoid personality with antisocial tendencies and PTSD entitled to “modest mitigating weight”). We find no evidence of any other mitigating factors under R.C. 2929.04(B)(7).
After weighing the aggravating circumstance against the collective mitigating evidence, we have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that the aggravating circumstance outweighs the mitigation. Killing another while an inmate is a very grave aggravating circumstance. When weighed against the mitigating factors here, that aggravating circumstance outweighs Newton's mitigation evidence beyond any reasonable doubt. Newton has demonstrated that he is a menace to the life, health, and safety of others even when he is in protective custody in a maximum-security prison. We find the death penalty appropriate. Moreover, we find that imposing the death penalty in this case is proportionate when compared with other aggravated murders by inmates in which the defendants were sentenced to death. See, e.g ., State v. Sanders (2001), 92 Ohio St.3d 245, 750 N.E.2d 90; State v. Stojetz, 84 Ohio St.3d 452, 705 N.E.2d 329; State v. Zuern (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 56, 512 N.E.2d 585.
Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the common pleas court.