Flipping the bird at law as he dies
LUCASVILLE, OHIO - A man who fatally shot his three sons while they slept in 1982, shortly after his wife filed for divorce, was executed yesterday with each of his hands clenched in an obscene gesture.
- A man who fatally shot his three sons while they slept in 1982, shortly after his wife filed for divorce, was executed yesterday with each of his hands clenched in an obscene gesture.
Reginald Brooks of East Cleveland died at 2:04 p.m., ending a nearly six-month break in the use of capital punishment in Ohio, which often trails only Texas in the number of annual inmate executions.
Brooks declined to make a final statement. Witnesses, which included his former wife and her sisters, had a view of his left hand, its middle finger raised.
Prison officials said he was making the same gesture with his right hand.
State and federal courts rejected attorneys' arguments that Brooks was not mentally competent and that the government had hid relevant evidence that could have affected his case.
The execution was delayed by more than three hours as attorneys exhausted Brooks' appeals.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused yesterday to halt the execution.
Brooks' attorney said the gesture reflected the inmate's anger at the final set of court decisions.
"That was his reaction to how things had gone down in the last couple of days," defense attorney Michael Benza said.
"Even Reggie, the mentally ill, paranoid schizophrenic, understood how wrong the process was," he said.
"It wasn't to the family; it was to the system that had treated him so badly these last few weeks."
Beverly Brooks, who found her 11-, 15- and 17-year-old sons dead when she returned from work, and her two sisters sat silently during the execution, wearing white T-shirts printed with a photo of the boys.
At 66, Brooks is the oldest person put to death since Ohio resumed executions in 1999.
The defense argued Brooks was a paranoid schizophrenic who suffered from mental illness long before he shot his sons in the head as they slept at their East Cleveland home on a Saturday morning.
Defense attorneys said Brooks believed that his co-workers and wife were poisoning him. Until his execution, he maintained his innocence, offering conspiracy theories about the killings that involved police, his relatives and a look-alike.
Beverly Brooks has said that she believes the killings were an act of revenge for her divorce filing, not the result of mental illness.
Prosecutors acknowledged Brooks was mentally ill but disputed the notions that it caused the murders or made him incompetent.
They said he planned merciless killings, bought a revolver two weeks in advance, confirmed he'd be home alone with the boys, and targeted them when they wouldn't resist.
Brooks was found competent for trial, and a three-judge panel convicted him.
Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors had withheld information that would have supported a mental-health defense and led the court to rule differently.
Former Judge Harry Hanna, one of the three on the panel, told the Ohio Parole Board that he would not have voted for the death penalty if he'd had information from police reports that were provided to the defense more recently.
If a three-judge panel hears a death-penalty case, it must vote unanimously for a death sentence under Ohio law.
The parole board recommended that Gov. John Kasich deny Brooks clemency, and he did.