Monday, October 13, 2008

Reporting from Lucasville .. surreal

I arrived here about an hour before the mandatory media briefing at the Lucasville prison, and it still feels like a dream that I'll be one of the media witnesses tomorrow to the death sentence of Richard Cooey.

It's not something I ever thought I would see, but with this case involving an Akron suspect and two University of Akron victims, it seems appropriate to be here.

With the U.S. Supreme Court denying Cooey's last appeal, it looks as though the execution will go forward as scheduled at 10 a.m.

I filed this report via our web around 6:30 p.m.

This afternoon's briefing with the five news organizations that attended -- WKYC, Akron Beacon Journal, Plain Dealer, WAKR-AM, and a print reporter from the Dayton Daily News -- lasted about 30 minutes.

Andrea Carson, the communications director for the state prisons, told us that Cooey was in "good spirits" when he arrived this morning from death row in Youngstown. He was granted his "special meal" -- a T-bone steak with A-1 sauce, hash browns, onion rings, french fries, four eggs over easy, a pint of Rocky Road ice cream, some "real" bear claws from a bakery, and a mountain dew -- around 4 p.m. and has the entire evening to eat it.

In the morning, he'll have the opportunity for a "last" meal if he'd like to have the prison breakfast. He'll also be given the opportunity to take a shower if he'd like.

Carson delivered all of the news in a professional and conversational manner.

It's not an easy topic for her, but this is the 25th execution she's managed. Cooey is the 27th inmate to be killed since Ohio started in 1999.

My role as a pool reporter is to observe the proceedings and then be willing to share with other reporters what I witnessed. I'm not permitted to take anything into the death chamber, but the prison staff will provide paper, pencils, and pens so that I can take notes.

I honestly don't know what to expect.

While Wendy Offredo's family is not attending, Dawn McCreery's family will have six family members, including her parents and brother, as witnesses.

Cooey has chosen his three attorneys as his witnesses and has already said goodbye to his family in Youngstown, Carson said.

We're not sure whether anyone will demonstrate, but the prison is prepared for a bus of demonstrators from Akron.

Cooey weighed in at 270 pounds, which supports his claim that he's too fat to be killed, but a visual assessment by the prison staff showed two accessible veins, one in each arm.

I honestly don't know how I will handle this .. and I'd be lying if I didn't say that my own brother's death is on my mind. He was shot and killed in Akron almost two years to the day prior to these killings. Labor day night of 1984. Offredo and McCreery were killed on Labor Day night 1986. My brother's killer served 19 years, while Cooey got the death penalty.

I never wanted the death penalty for my brother's killer, because I didn't think it solved anything.

Still, as a journalist, if I'm going to discuss Ohio's role in capital punishment, I need to be able to talk from a position of experience. That's one of the reasons I'm here.

Still, I honestly don't have the words tonight .. I'm struggling .. but I'm trying.


Anonymous said...

Eric, I know well of your humanity and how you must be struggling with this. Ask my husband how he feels about this execution. He was one of the first on-scene when Wendy and Dawn were discovered. This has haunted him all these years. He still states it was one of the worst crime scenes he ever attended. I am not sure how I feel, in general, about the death penalty, but for Richard Cooey, I believe he is getting his due. I will be glad when this is done--if it is. It will give rest to many people.


Village Green said...

I am always horrified by these circumstances and I could never do what you are going to go through. So many heinous murders leaving gaping raw wounds in the survivors, and yet -- Richard Cooey was once a little baby in some mother's arms. What the hell happened on his journey that brings him to an end tomorrow? Who could have made a difference in the way hie life turned out?

I don't agree with capital punishment for all the reasons anyone has ever given. Following horror with more horror does no one any good. I'm sorry you have to be the one to report on it.

R. S. said...

I remember the day the girls were found. I walked those woods with my dog & 2 daughters since my property ran next to it. I remember details about the car, the rock in the windshield, the girls calling their mother to say it was ok. They had someone who stopped to help them. We felt horrible for the families and wondered what kind of monster would do such a thing.
It's easy for us to say "kill the bastard" using any way to get the job done.
We aren't in the viewing room with you. We don't have to watch a life being taken and then have to report on what it was like. Then go home to our kids and go about business as usual with that scene playing in our head.
We watch your reports because we know you are a decent, kind human being with a great deal of integrity.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a family member or friend due to an act of violence. We just need to keep everyone in our thoughts & prayers and imagine peace.