by Marc Kovac, Capital Bureau Chief
Christopher Newton liked to laugh.
He laughed after brutally killing his cellmate at the Mansfield Correctional Institution.
He laughed when talking to reporters about the crime as he voiced contrition and warned others not to follow his path.
He even laughed as the lethal drugs began flowing through his veins while strapped to the table in the death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility last week.
In a letter ready by his attorney afterward and interviews with reporters, he said he was sorry to his victim's family and to his own.
He wished he could take back the actions that led to his demise.
But, as a capital punishment supporter and a self-proclaimed "Republican on death row," he believed his fate was appropriate.
Here's how he spent his last two hours of life:
* 9:57 a.m. Witnesses walked from the main prison building to the death house, a hearse parked outside.
Four media representatives were the first to arrive in the witness room -- about the size of two large walk-in closets, separated by a wall and a doorway. There were three chairs, a box of tissues and a small television monitor on each side of the wall.
A large window separated the room from the death chamber and a built-in, table-like bed with straps. The witnesses for the victim (three Mansfield-area prosecutors) sat on the side. A friend, reverend and public defender sat at Newton's feet. Others stood at the back of the room. It was dark and very quiet.
* 10 a.m. The monitors were on, with a camera pointing down to a table where Newton reclined. He appeared comfortable and relaxed, laughing and talking to members of the execution team. He wore standard issue prison attire -- white shirt, blue pants with a red stripe down each leg and black shoes.
Volunteers tied elastic bands around parts of his arms, searching for veins to insert the shunts that carry the lethal drug combination.
* 10:10 a.m. Newton was a big guy -- he stood about 6 feet and weighed about 265 pounds. The execution team members had a difficult time finding suitable veins for the injection. They tapped on his arms. They rubbed his arms. They moved the elastic bands. Newton seemed to take it all in stride. He scratched his head. He rubbed his eyes. He crossed his legs. And he occasionally laughed.
* 10:40 a.m. With the shunt in place on the left, crews turned their attention to Newton's tattooed right arm. They had little luck. They moved on to his leg, to no avail. They went back to his arm and, at one point, worked on both the arm and the leg. They cleared out of the camera view for a few minutes and regrouped.
* 11:05 a.m. About an hour into the process, Newton had to go to the bathroom. He was allowed to get up from the table and left the room.
One of the volunteers (you can see only the tops of their heads, and they're never identified) threw a rubber glove onto the floor and held his hands in a large circle shape -- I assume as an indication of how big Newton's arms were and how difficult it was to find a suitable vein. Newton returned after two minutes but remained sitting up while the shunt work continued.
* 11:15 a.m. It appeared they found a vein. Newton laid down again while saline dripped through tubes into his arms -- a means of ensuring everything's connected correctly. He raised his arm and looked at it. He wiggled his fingers. He smiled.
* 11:33 a.m. Newton got up from the table and walked into the death chamber, a few steps away. It was the first time the witnesses saw him in the flesh. He was strapped to the table, and tubing was hooked up to the shunts. He mostly stared at the ceiling, sometimes with his eyes half closed, never turning his head to look at those who have come to watch his passing.
Newton laughed. Asked if he has any final words, he said, "Boy, I could sure go for some beef stew and a chicken bone. That's it." * 11:38 a.m. There was no signal or indication when the three drugs used started to flow. Newton occasionally spoke to the two men in the room, who gave no indication about what was said. He laughed a few times before falling asleep. His chest heaved up and down in labored breathing before becoming still. His throat trembled, almost like he was mumbling to himself. His hands and forehead turned blue.
* 11:45 a.m. There was a last tremble in his throat, and Newton's body was still.
* 11:51 a.m. A curtain was drawn over the window, blocking the view of the witnesses. We were told a coroner was checking for signs of life. Then, the curtains were opened, and the official time of death was noted.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Newspapers Capital Bureau chief. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.