Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Alton Coleman & Debra Brown: Odyssey of Mayhem

Unfinished Business

Southern Ohio Correctional Institution
Southern Ohio Correctional Institution

Alton Coleman reportedly spent a fitful night in the death house at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville prior to his execution. Although death row is located in Mansfield, condemned prisoners are taken to Lucasville for execution of their sentence.

He ate a hearty "special meal" (Ohio convicts don't have a "last meal" because they are served breakfast the morning of the execution), but slept poorly, officials who were present said. The morning of his execution, he had a few bites of toast.

He had been baptized two days earlier by a Dallas-based televangelist, and had said goodbye to his family a week prior to his execution. It was their first visit to him in years and they could not attend the execution because "they could not get a ride," the spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction told the media.

The observation room overlooking the execution chamber in Lucasville holds 12 people, and an accordion door separates the convict's witnesses from those representing the victims. Alton invited a spiritual advisor and his legal team. The number of witnesses representing victims presented a logistical challenge to prison officials who finally had to obtain special permission from the Ohio Supreme Court to set up closed-circuit television for the overflow crowd of 18 people (not including media witnesses) who came to watch Coleman die.

In typical fashion, Alton claimed the closed-circuit TV violated his civil rights and sought to block the move. The Ohio Supreme Court rejected that argument.

At shortly before 10 a.m., wearing a "non-denominational" prayer shawl with crosses and Stars of David over his prison blues, Alton Coleman walked into the death chamber and quietly laid himself on the gurney. He remained still as the guards fastened restraints on him and attached the lines that would contain the three chemicals to a shunt already in place in his arm.

He looked over at the witness room and appeared to say something, but it was impossible to hear him through the glass.

A prison official asked if he had any final words, he shook his head and then the executioner pushed the button that would begin the execution process.

Although just three chemicals are used to execute a prisoner, one to induce unconsciousness, another to stop breathing and a third to stop the heart, eight syringes, operated automatically once the button is pushed are required. It often takes two or three very long minutes for all the syringes to empty.

As the drugs began flowing, Alton Coleman began reciting the 23rd Psalm. By the time he reached "he leadeth me beside the still waters," the sodium pentothal began to take effect and Coleman lost consciousness.

He was pronounced death at 10:13 a.m. EST.

Some of the survivors of Coleman's victims considered their work just half finished.

The grandmother of 7-year-old murder victim Tamika Turks of Gary, Ind., said survivors won't know peace until Coleman's accomplice, Debra Brown, is put to death by the state of Indiana.

Debra Brown
Debra Brown
"One chapter has been closed, but there's another chapter: Debra Brown," she said. "Until that's done, there can be no peace. (But) we'll never be the same because what they took from us, they cannot give back to us."

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