The Associated Press provided a description of the struggle to execute Ohio death row inmate Lewis Williams on January 14, 2004:

A convicted killer, struggling with guards and pleading for his life until the last moment, was executed Wednesday morning for the 1983 fatal robbery of a Cleveland woman.

Lewis Williams continued to profess his innocence even as he was carried into the death chamber by four guards.

“I’m not guilty. I’m not guilty. God, please help me,” Williams said as he was strapped to the execution table.

It was the first time in nine executions since the state resumed the practice in 1999 that an inmate has struggled with guards.

Williams, continued to cry out as his mother, Bonnie Williams, 66, sobbed in a room separated by windows from the death chamber.

He kept pleading even in his final official statement, given at 10:07 a.m. “God, please help me. God, please hear my cry,” Williams said.

Williams continued to cry out even after warden James Haviland pulled the microphone away. Williams continued yelling until 10:08 a.m. when he abruptly stopped speaking. His chest rose and fell a couple times.

Haviland ordered the curtains drawn at 10:14 a.m. for the Scioto County coroner to determine that Williams was dead.

For the first time, witnesses saw members of the execution team insert the needles that will deliver the lethal drugs into an inmate’s arms.

The decision by the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to allow the process to be viewed settles a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in September, said prisons system director Reginald Wilkinson.

Wilkinson said officials would review what happened with Williams.

“I would say it was disturbing. I would say it was traumatic,” Wilkinson said. “It was probably as traumatic as anything our staff has gone through.”

It took several members of the execution team to carry a struggling Williams into the preparation room, as seen on the monitors. At least nine guards had to restrain Williams at various points as they prepared his arms and inserted needles.

A camera broadcast the insertion to two video monitors in the witness rooms next to the death chamber.

Williams, 45, repeatedly shook his head and tried to lift himself off the preparation bed. He yelled several times, then would rest his head and speak quietly, appearing to whisper at points and chant at other points.

One guard standing at his head alternately restrained him and patted his right shoulder to comfort him.

“It was an awful thing to watch,” said Stephen Ferrell, an assistant state public defender. “The struggle caught us by surprise. He didn’t seem to be like that this morning.”

In 1999, a problem inserting an injection needle into Wilford Berry’s right arm delayed Ohio’s first execution since 1963 for more than 20 minutes.

Williams tried unsuccessfully to challenge the constitutionality of how inmates are executed in Ohio. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected his request to stay his execution.

He was the first Ohio inmate whose mental retardation claim was rejected to be executed.

Williams was scheduled to be executed in June, but it was delayed after Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Janet Burnside allowed him to present his claim that he was mentally retarded.

The U.S. Supreme Court two years ago ruled that executing the mentally retarded was unconstitutional.

Burnside later rejected Williams’ mental retardation claim after an expert hired by his attorneys determined he is not mentally retarded.

Williams was convicted of shooting Leoma Chmielewski, 76, during a robbery in her Cleveland home.

See Executions.