The convicted killer is slated for execution Nov. 15, but Campbell has so much fluid in his lungs that he can't lie flat on the execution table for a lethal injection, one of his attorneys, David Stebbins, said Tuesday.
"He'll start gasping and choking," Stebbins said.
Stebbins said that for Campbell to sleep in prison, "he has to prop himself up on his side. It's not very good."
Stebbins said he has communicated his concerns to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, which didn't immediately respond to questions about how to deal with Campbell's condition.
Campbell, 69, has twice been convicted of murder, most recently in the 1997 execution-style slaying of 18-year-old Charles Dials behind a K-Mart store on South High Street.
Long before that, Campbell had cardiopulmonary issues that in the past few years have become debilitating, his attorneys say. Most of his right lung has been removed, and he has emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and possibly cancer in much of his remaining lung tissue, Campbell's application for executive clemency says. In addition, his prostate gland has been removed, as has a gangrenous colon. A broken hip last year has confined him to a walker.
"The severity of these combined illnesses have left Alva debilitated and fragile," Campbell's clemency application says. "Alva's deteriorating physical condition further militates in favor of clemency."
The health claims are only one reason why Campbell and his attorneys are asking that his sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole. They also cite the "nightmare" childhood that Campbell suffered at the hands of an alcoholic father who was both physically and sexually abusive.
If Gov. John Kasich doesn't want to commute Campbell's sentence, delaying his sentence would have the same effect because the inmate will die soon, advocates said.
"He's probably in the poorest health of any living death-row inmate in the country," said Kevin Werner of Ohioans to Stop Executions.
A spokesman for Kasich couldn't be reached Tuesday.
Campbell is scheduled for a clemency hearing Thursday. A spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said that, in advance of the hearing, his office will file a response rebutting the claims made in Campbell's application.
Campbell argues that poor health is one reason he shouldn't be put to death, but he used an earlier, false health claim to commit the crime that put him on death row.
Campbell feigned paralysis from a glancing bullet wound suffered during a robbery arrest. As Campbell was being taken to the Franklin County Courthouse for a hearing on April 2, 1997, he sprang from his wheelchair, overpowered a deputy sheriff, took her gun and fled.
He then carjacked Dials, who was at the courthouse to pay a traffic ticket. After driving Dials around for hours, Campbell ordered him onto the floor of his truck and shot him twice.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, who at the time of Campbell's trial called him "the poster child for the death penalty," couldn't be reached Tuesday for comment.
Campbell is not the first condemned man in Ohio to use ill health to argue that he should be spared from execution. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Richard Cooey's claim that he was too obese to be executed. Cooey said his obesity could make it difficult for executioners to find a vein for a lethal injection. He was executed that year.
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