Ohio could execute at least seven condemned killers next year now that an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment has ended in the state and numerous inmates exhaust decades old appeals.
A federal judge's examination of the state's execution procedures and an unrelated decision by Gov. John Kasich to spare two prisoners halted executions for six months beginning in May.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost ruled the state had addressed his concerns about problems with Ohio's execution policies, and in so doing he refused to delay the execution of Reginald Brooks, who shot his three sons as they slept in 1982, shortly after his wife filed for divorce.
Brooks, of East Cleveland, was executed Tuesday at 2:04 p.m. with each of his hands clenched in an obscene gesture.
The next execution is Jan. 18, when Charles Lorraine is scheduled to die for stabbing an elderly couple to death in their Trumbull County home in 1986.
Brooks declined to make a final statement and remained silent. Witnesses, which included his former wife and her sisters, had a view of his left hand, its middle finger raised. Prison officials said he was making the same gesture with his right hand.
State and federal courts rejected attorneys' arguments that Brooks was not mentally competent and that the government hid relevant evidence that could have affected his case. The execution was delayed by more than three hours as attorneys exhausted Brooks' appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court refused Tuesday to halt the execution.
He is the fourth inmate in Ohio to be put to death using the surgical sedative pentobarbital as a stand-alone execution drug.
Beverly Brooks, who found her 11-, 15- and 17-year-old sons dead when she returned from work, and her two sisters sat silently, wearing white T-shirts printed with a photo of the boys during the execution.
Beverly Brooks did not comment, but one of her sisters, Monica Stephens, spoke on behalf of the family.
"Our nephews are gone, and they'll never be replaced," she said. "The memories we'll always have. The what-ifs we'll always have."
Reginald Brooks' two defense attorneys and two spiritual advisers were his witnesses.
At 66, Brooks is the oldest person put to death since Ohio resumed executions in 1999.
The defense argued Brooks was a paranoid schizophrenic who suffered from mental illness long before he shot his sons in the head as they slept at their East Cleveland home on a Saturday morning. Defense attorneys said Brooks believed his co-workers and wife were poisoning him and that he maintained his innocence, offering conspiracy theories about the killings that involved police, his relatives and a look-alike.
Beverly Brooks has said she believes the killings were an act of revenge for her divorce filing, not the result of mental illness.
Defense attorneys did not comment after the execution and did not immediately respond to email and phone messages.
Prosecutors acknowledged Brooks was mentally ill but disputed the notions that it caused the murders or made him incompetent. They said he planned merciless killings, bought a revolver two weeks in advance, confirmed he'd be home alone with the boys, targeted them when they wouldn't resist and fled on a bus with a suitcase containing a birth certificate and personal items that could help him start a new life.
Brooks was found competent for trial, and a three-judge panel convicted him.
Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors withheld information that would have supported a mental health defense and led the court to rule differently. Former Judge Harry Hanna, one of the three on the panel, told the Ohio Parole Board he would not have voted for the death penalty if he'd had information from police reports that were provided to the defense more recently.
If a three-judge panel hears a death penalty case, it must vote unanimously for a death sentence under Ohio law.
The parole board recommended that Gov. John Kasich deny Brooks clemency, and he did.
Associated Press writers Andrew Welsh-Huggins and JoAnne Viviano in Columbus contributed to this report.
Kantele Franko can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/kantele10.