"Unique skill set helps save man from death row," is by Thom Patterson of CNN. It's a preview of this Sunday's episode of the CNN documentary series, "Death Row Stories," and looks at the Ohio exoneration of Joe D'Ambrosio. It airs at 9:00 pm ET/8:00 pm CT, Sunday night.
Neil Kookoothe watched quietly as the state of Ohio killed James Filiaggi.
Kookoothe, a witness during Filiaggi's 2007 execution, saw the condemned man's face turn beet red as lethal fluid ran through his veins. Beads of sweat glistened on his forehead. Strapped to a table, his chest and stomach heaved three or four times, Kookoothe recalled. Then, at age 41, Filiaggi was gone.
"It's surreal when you know that the state is killing him," said Kookoothe, a Roman Catholic priest who counseled Filiaggi in the months before he was executed for killing his ex-wife. "Jimmy was ready to die."
Kookoothe views capital punishment through a unique lens. He's seen it up close as a priest, but he also has the perspective of a nurse and attorney. After graduating with a communications degree in the early 1980s, Kookoothe felt drawn to the priesthood. Instead, he ended up at nursing school, later working as a licensed nurse at a Toledo, Ohio, hospital intensive care unit. "You saw traumas, gunshot wounds and stabbings," he said. While nursing during the day, he put himself through law school, eventually moving on to work briefly as an attorney in Indiana. But the priesthood kept calling. "It was always in the back of my mind," he said. He eventually settled on a life in the church, graduating from seminary school.
The three disciplines served Kookoothe well in the remarkable case of death row inmate Joe D'Ambrosio.