updated 5/24/2007 6:23:27 PM ET 2007-05-24T22:23:27

An overweight inmate was executed by injection Thursday after a delay of more than an hour while prison medical staff struggled to find suitable veins in his arms.

The execution of Christopher Newton, who had killed a cellmate in 2001 and insisted on the death sentence, had been set to begin at 10 a.m.

But members of the medical staff at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility struggled to find veins in each arm, said Leo Jennings, a spokesman for the attorney general.

Newton, 37, was pronounced dead shortly before noon. He weighed 265 at his physical on Wednesday. The head of the Public Defender’s death penalty division, Joe Wilhelm, said Newton told him it was hard for blood to be taken from his veins because of his weight.

A year ago, the execution of another Ohio inmate, Joseph Lewis Clark, also was delayed more than an hour because the team could not find a suitable vein. The case was cited by death penalty opponents as an example of problems with lethal injection.

Newton beat and choked cellmate Jason Brewer, 27, to death in 2001 after they argued over a chess game.

Although his attorneys argued Newton should be spared the death penalty because of mental disorders, a court last fall found him competent to forgo his appeals. The prosecution had argued that he had feigned mental illness.

Even given a bathroom break
The execution team stuck Newton with needles at least 10 times as they worked to get shunts in place to handle the lethal chemicals. Meanwhile, he continued to talk, smile and laugh with the prison staff; at one point, he was even given a bathroom break.

Court documents say Newton, who spent much of his adult life in prison, knew Brewer’s killing was a capital crime, and refused to cooperate with investigators unless they sought the death penalty.

In an interview with reporters last month, Newton said he killed Brewer because he repeatedly gave up while they were playing chess.

“Every time I put him in check, he’d give up and want to start a new game,” Newton said. “And I tried to tell him you never give up ... I just got tired of it.”

He also claimed that he had intentionally gotten himself put back in prison by leaving behind a handprint during a 1999 break-in at his father’s house.

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