Ohio death row inmate denied wish to donate organs

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A condemned child killer will not be allowed to donate organs to his ailing mother and sister before or during his execution this week, Ohio prisons officials said Tuesday after determining the process would pose significant security and logistical challenges.

The request from Ronald Phillips to donate a kidney and his heart came Monday, less than 72 hours before he is scheduled to die by lethal injection.

Phillips has said through his attorneys that the request was not a delay tactic, but rather an attempt to make a final gesture for good.

Prison officials scrambled to review Phillips' last-minute request, which they called unprecedented, but ultimately could not figure out a way to get the 40-year-old to and from an offsite hospital while following security procedures leading up to an execution. Phillips is scheduled to die Thursday by an injection of a sedative and painkiller that has never been used in a U.S. execution.

The department says it will be up to his family whether the organs are donated after his death. It is unclear whether they would be viable when Phillips' body is turned over to his family.

The prisons department "has reviewed the options and has determined that the department is not equipped to facilitate organ donation pre- or post- execution," said spokeswoman JoEllen Smith. Prisons officials consider the matter to be private among Phillips, his family and his attorneys, she said.

Transporting an inmate so close to his execution date outside prison walls for an off-site medical procedure would pose "significant security concerns and risks," Stephen C. Gray, general counsel of prison risk management, wrote in a Tuesday reply to Phillips' request.

Phillips had never requested to donate his organs earlier although the option is available under prison medical policy, Gray wrote.

Phillips was sentenced to die for the rape and death of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron in 1993.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich last week rejected Phillips' request for mercy, and all his appeals have been dropped.

Phillips' Cleveland attorney, Tim Sweeney, said that Phillips did not propose donating his organs earlier because he was hopeful his case would go another way.

"He's been very reflective and prayerful over the last several weeks. I think he was very hopeful that he was going to be granted clemency and/or get relief from the court, so this never really had to come to a head," Sweeney said. "The disappointment on those fronts made this obviously more relevant."

His mother has kidney disease and is on dialysis and his sister has a heart condition, the Monday letter said.

In 1995, Delaware death row inmate Steven Shelton was allowed to donate a kidney to his mother while in prison, though he was not facing imminent execution. Following successful appeals, his death sentence was reversed and he was resentenced to prison time in 2011.

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