The Death Row Inmate Who Survived Lethal Injection

Once someone is sentenced to death, it can take years before the ultimate punishment is actually administered. Some states get mired in so much red tape and so many appeals that prisoners who are sentenced to death actually die of natural causes before they can be executed. Ideally, once the death penalty is carried out, it's an act of finality. But what would happen if someone actually survived the state's attempt to end their life?

While certainly an uncommon occurrence, it has actually happened more than one might think. Prior to the modern era, there are documented reports of the doomed surviving hangings and firing squads. One of the most chilling cases was that of young Willie Francis, who survived the electric chair (via History). Francis, convicted of murdering his old employer, was only 17 when he was executed. The first time, anyway. After his first go failed, he was sent back to the chair a year later, where his execution was carried out successfully. 

In more recent times, only two death row inmates have survived their sentence being carried out. More recently is the case of Romell Broom, whose death sentence by lethal injection was administered in 2009. Who was he, and how did he survive?

A life of crime

Born in Muskegon, Michigan in 1956, Romell Broom moved to Ohio with his mother in 1961. His criminal record dates all the way back to 1969, when he was only 13 years old (via The Criminal Journal). Prior to the offenses that would land him on Ohio's death row in 1984, Broom had established quite a rap sheet for himself. He had multiple convictions of kidnapping, along with separate incidents where he was convicted of robbery and aggravated robbery (via Offender Search). 

Broom was also a convicted rapist. Four months before he would commit the crimes that would result in his death sentence, Broom made parole after serving an eight-and-a-half year sentence for the rape of a young woman (via The Criminal Journal).

On the evening of September 21, 1984, Broom moved deeper into crime, all the way to murder. It was an evening that took one innocent life, and changed the lives of her loved ones forever.

The murder of Tryna Middleton

Tryna Middleton, 14 years old, was walking home from a school football game late in the evening on September 21, 1984, with two other young women who had also attended the game. It seemed like a normal Friday night walk for the teens. But when one of them noticed a beige van following them, they became alarmed. The van was approaching them without any headlights, and quickly sped up. The girls immediately reversed course and set off on an alternate route. But the van was waiting for them at the next corner (via The Criminal Journal).

The driver emerged from the van, wielding a long knife. He managed to strongarm young Tryna into the vehicle. As it sped away down the street, the two teens who escaped the kidnapping ran to a nearby home, where they phoned their parents and the police (via The Criminal Journal). Within two hours, the lifeless body of Tryna Middleton was found in a nearby park by passersby. Her partially clothed body had been stabbed seven times, including one fatal stab wound to her heart. An autopsy later revealed that she had been sexually assaulted prior to her murder (via The Criminal Journal). Several months later, police charged 28-year-old Broom with the rape and murder.

Botched execution

Broom was at the time incarcerated for a botched kidnapping of another girl, this time an 11-year-old. He was in the middle of the kidnapping when his van became stuck due to an icy roadway (via The Criminal Journal). Broom was tried and convicted on eyewitness testimony and DNA evidence, and sentenced to death by lethal injection (via The Criminal Journal).

After losing several appeals, including one that involved a second look at his DNA, Broom (above) was at last brought out of his cell and strapped to a gurney. But what should have been his last day alive didn't end as intended. On that date, September 15, 2009, technicians were unable to locate Broom's veins so that the IV could be secured (via Associated Press). 

After two hours of failed attempts to establish a viable IV line, his would-be executioners gave up. In that two-hour time frame, they had made 18 failed jabs into Broom's arms and legs. One jab was such a failure that it struck one of Broom's bones (via Associated Press).

Broom filed an appeal almost immediately, challenging the state of Ohio's power to execute him twice. A court ruled 4-3 against Broom, and his execution was rescheduled for June 17, 2020. But was the state able to lethally inject the prisoner?

Broom's ultimate fate

Amid the COVID-19 health crisis, there have been plenty of things in short supply. As it turns out, among those things have been the necessary chemicals used to lethally inject prisoners in the state of Ohio. Governor Mike DeWine ordered a temporary moratorium on executions in his state, until a ready supply could be safely obtained (via Associated Press). As a result, Broom was given a little bit more time to sit on death row. The State of Ohio again rescheduled Broom's execution, this time moving it to March 16, 2022 (via Associated Press).

But the state would never have the opportunity to try to locate a vein on Romell Broom. Amid a COVID-19 outbreak in the Ohio prison in which he was awaiting execution, Brown contracted the virus. Instead of being executed by lethal injection, Broom succumbed to COVID-19 on December 28, 2020 (via Associated Press).