by ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS
Lucasville -- Ohio executed a condemned killer Nov. 13 who claimed he was innocent of stabbing a woman 138 times, slitting her throat and cutting off her hands.
"I'm good, let's roll," Brett Hartman said in his final words.
He then smiled in the direction of his sister and repeatedly gave her, a friend and his attorney a "thumbs up" with his left hand. He then said something inaudible to warden Donald Morgan, who didn't respond.
The effect of the single dose of pentobarbital did not seem as immediate as in other executions at the state prison in Lucasville, in southern Ohio. Four minutes after Hartman first appeared to be reacting to it as his abdomen began to rise and fall, his abdomen rose and fell again, he coughed and his head shifted rhythmically for a few moments.
His sister, Diane Morretti, dabbed at her eyes during the process. The warden declared Hartman's time of death as 10:34 a.m.
Hartman was the 49th inmate put to death since Ohio resumed executions in 1999.
Hartman acknowledged that he had sex with Winda Snipes early on the morning of Sept. 9, 1997, at her Akron apartment. He also says he went back to Snipes' apartment later that day, found her mutilated body and panicked, trying to clean up the mess before calling 911.
But Hartman said he didn't kill her, a claim rejected by numerous courts over the years.
Hartman came within about a week of execution in 2009 before federal courts allowed him to pursue an innocence claim. When that claim failed, Hartman had a new date set last year, but that was postponed because of a federal lawsuit over Ohio's execution policy.
The Ohio Parole Board had unanimously denied Hartman's requests for clemency three times, citing the brutality of the Snipes' slaying and the "overwhelming evidence" of Hartman's guilt.
Hartman's attorneys have long said that crucial evidence from the crime scene and Snipes' body had never been tested, raising questions about Hartman's innocence. The evidence included fingerprints allegedly found on a clock and a mop handle. Hartman also argued the evidence could implicate an alternate suspect.
The attorneys had argued that if Hartman's innocence claim wasn't accepted, he should still be spared because of the effects of a "remarkably chaotic and nomadic early childhood," including being abandoned by his mother and left with an aunt on an isolated Indian reservation.
His lawyers also said Hartman's behavior in prison was exemplary and showed he was a changed man. They cited his devotion to religious studies, his development as an artist and community service projects in prison.
The state opposed those arguments, citing the strength of the evidence and the fact that courts have repeatedly upheld Hartman's conviction and death sentence. The state also said Hartman refused to take responsibility and show remorse.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.