Kevin Keith Received an Anointing from Fellow Death Row Inmate Romell Broom in 2009


We published a sprawling feature on the criminal case against Kevin Keith today, and we wanted to share an interesting story that he told about his time on Death Row.

You may recall inmate Romell Broom, who was scheduled for a state execution on Sept. 15, 2009. The process was botched horribly, with the team searching for suitable veins and trying to execute Broom for two hours. At certain points, he even offered to move around so that they could finish the task. Ultimately, the state called it off.

"The practice everybody [on Death Row] had when they had an execution was to look at the news that night and see how the execution went," Keith told Scene during a visit to Marion Correctional Institution. "I mean, everybody's in their cell — single cell. That night I'm looking at the ODRC rep [on the news], and the guy looked like he just came out the shower. I said, 'Well, let me turn it up. This must be important.'"

On TV, the state prison official described the botched execution. Broom had survived.

Keith, who had turned to the Lord years prior, thought immediately of the story of Jesus Christ healing the bleeding woman — one of the miracles of Jesus, as described in the Gospels. (After bleeding for years, the woman finally approached Jesus and touched his cloak. “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed," the woman said, as the Gospel of Mark states. She was healed immediately.)

"The Holy Spirit said, 'Well, when Broom get back, go over there and touch him and get that anointing off of him,'" Keith said. He went to the window of his cell and awaited Broom's return to the block. Hopefully, he thought, no one else received the message from the Holy Spirit. "I got a little selfish at that point," he said with a laugh.

It took two days for Broom to get back.

A corrections officer allowed Keith out of his cell, and he was able to walk right up to Broom's block. Broom was surrounded by a bunch of corrections officers, but Keith was able to slide partially through the slot and beckon the other inmate. "God told me to come over here and get that anointing off of you!" he screamed.

Keith hugged Broom, and one other inmate jokingly touched Broom as well. "Yeah, let me get some of that anointing too," the other guy said, according to Keith.

About a month later — and here's where the story wraps around, full circle — Keith received his execution date: Sept. 15, 2010. His attorney, Rachel Troutman, explained the reality of this development over the phone, and asked for personal phone numbers to alert Keith's family members.

"The Lord ain't gonna let them execute me," he told himself as he walked back to his block.

Afterward, Keith ran into Broom in the rec room. They were the only two men in the room that day, and Broom revealed that his execution date had been Sept. 15, as well.

"So I got into sermon mode," Keith said. "I got into Billy Graham mode. You know, 'cause Romell ain't spiritually sound, so I got into Billy Graham mode and I said, 'I told you. I told you! You got that anointing on you!'

"They really tried to execute the brother," he continued. "They got the nurse out in the hallway to be part of the team to give it a try. Anytime that happens, that has to be God."

Keith said his faith was strengthened over the last 23 years by events like that, because, of course, former Gov. Ted Strickland commuted his sentenced just two weeks before the scheduled execution. Keith survives to this day, with a life sentence keeping him behind bars now.

Read the full story of Kevin Keith's criminal case here.

The other guy who touched Romell Broom back in 2009? The guy who made a  joke out of it? That was Sidney Cornwell, whose death sentence was also commuted to life in prison by Strickland.

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