Inmate Executed After Obesity Argument Fails

By: Gerri L. Elder

Richard W. Cooey II, 41, was arrested, tried and given the death penalty for the brutal murders of University of Akron sorority sisters Wendy Offredo and Dawn McCreery. Offredo and McCreery were raped, stabbed, tortured and beaten to death in 1986.

During the last minute flurry of appeals in an attempt to stop the execution, Cooey and his criminal defense attorneys argued that he was too obese to be put to death by lethal injection. During these appeals, it was argued that prison food and lack of opportunity to exercise had caused Cooey to become obese while in prison.

Cooey also argued that regular medication he took for migraines would weaken the effectiveness of the anesthetic used in the three-drug cocktail used during execution by lethal injection. He said his veins were weakened because of his health issues, and the lethal drug combination would constitute cruel and unusual punishment for him.

According to the Dayton Daily News, a federal appeals court and the Ohio Supreme Court rejected the arguments that Cooey was too obese for a viable vein to be located in order for the death sentence to be carried out. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed with the Ohio Supreme Court and cleared the way for Cooey to be executed.

The U.S. Supreme Court also rejected a final appeal.

Cooey, who was 5-foot-7 and weighed 267 pounds, was executed by lethal injection on the morning of October 14. He was the first inmate in Ohio to be executed since the end of the de facto moratorium on lethal injection that lasted more than a year.

His execution was the 27th since Ohio resumed executions in 1999 after a 36-year hiatus.

Cooey never admitted guilt or expressed remorse for the murders. He maintained that his co-defendant Clinton Dickens was responsible for the killings, while Dickens blamed Cooey. Dickens was 17-years-old at the time of the murders and was also convicted but sentenced to life in prison due to his age.

Steak, eggs, hash browns, fries, onion rings, toast, a pint of Rocky Road ice cream, Mountain Dew soda and bear claw pastries were served for Cooey’s last meal. When asked for his final statement, he reportedly looked at the ceiling and declined to say much other than noting the fact that he felt that no one had listened to him for the past 22 1/2 years, so a final statement would be futile.

The execution was carried out without any problems locating veins in Cooey’s arms. He was pronounced dead at 10:28 a.m.