At first, Romell Broom was simply a case I started to research, a man whose execution had failed. I studied his mug shots from police reports, his juvenile criminal records for armed robbery, and car theft, his first conviction for rape, and his death sentence for kidnapping, rape and murder. These pieces gradually formed the image of a viscous perpetrator in my head. Three months after the failed execution I sat opposite the real Romell Broom.
I was surprised to find a normal human being, a middle-aged man behind a glass panel, reaching through the slot beneath the glass to squeeze hands with me. His hands felt unusually soft and he looked me straight in the eye, asking me how I was doing. A nice, charismatic man, I thought.
He said he was innocent of all crimes he had been charged for. I was tempted to believe him. I asked myself, could this person who looks at me with warm, open eyes while claiming his innocence really have committed these crimes he’s accused of?
Later I realized that he could and probably did, if not all of them at least the crime of dragging 11 year old Melinda off the street, brutally beating her, calling her a whore and driving off with her in his car.
The extent of his involvement in the murder case of Tryna Middleton remains unclear, but is also possible, yes, and I am wondering, how does this work in the mind of Romell Broom, to be in one moment devoid of all human compassion and treat Melinda as a piece of garbage and to become, a few hours later, the caring husband and father again, leaving little love notes for his wife on the kitchen table, enjoying cooking together with his son?
One of the first interviews that I conducted for this film was with a representative of the OHDRC, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. She had been present during the two-and-a-half hours of Romell Broom’s failed execution. Among the most remarkable things for me about this interview was the choice of words with which she described Ohio’s method of carrying out executions.
They were done she said “in a professional, humane and dignified manner.” It was also of note that she confirmed my question about her being present during all of the executions with a certain pride. She went on to deny having any emotional problems when witnessing a death candidate being prepared for his execution and having IV’s inserted, through which there would be administered chemicals that would cause his death. She stated it was simply her job to carry out the death sentences as ordered by the court.
Her seeming ability to brush aside all thoughts and feelings about the human being, what he may or may not have done and what he might feel at this moment, I found appalling and fascinating at the same time.
Like the perpetrator, the ones claiming the right to kill the perpetrator evoked in me a similar question: how does this work? How do both parties, perpetrator and executioner, bring themselves to the point at which they can forget that there is a living, breathing human being standing in front of them, experiencing in this moment the excruciating fear of death. How can they convince themselves that it is ok to harm or kill another person?
Perhaps in both cases there needs to take place in the perpetrator’s or executioner’s mind a dehumanization of the person who is about to be victimized or executed. Romell Broom might have needed to call 11-year old Melinda a whore, stripping her of her humanity, in order to brutally beat and harm her. In a similar fashion, the representatives of the OHDRC might need to bury a person’s humanity under law and professional duty and neutrally label him „offender“ or „convict“ in order to be able to execute them.
Yvonne Pointer always sees the human being, unconditionally placing his or her well-being and dignity above any system and political conviction, above personal benefit and vanity. This is why Yvonne Pointer is to me the hero of this film.
People can change if they get a chance, these are Yvonne’s hopes and beliefs.
Yvonne shows both perpetrators and victims, that the hatred and pain expressed and carried out through violent crime and mirrored in the state’s executions, creates a powerful and endlessly repeating force that destroys all trust and hinders our ability to live together as human beings. She believes that our lives can only be rebuilt with the means of counter forces equally strong - human respect, compassion and love.
Born and raised in Bavaria, Luise is a graduate of the audiovisual department at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where she first studied drawing and painting.
During her time there she wrote her first short theater play Kom terug which was directed by Erik de Volder at the Nieuwpoorttheater in Gent. Her interest in the dramatic arts piqued, she started producing, writing and directing short films while continuing to paint and draw. For the past years Luise has been working primarily in documentary film with renowned German director Michael Verhoeven as a writer, producer and assistant director. Der Unbekannte Soldat (The Unknown Soldier) (2006) deals with the participation of the regular German army in the annihilation of the Jewish civilians in the Eastern front war. Menschliches Versagen (Human failure) (2008), on which she was co-author, explores the expropriation of Jewish property in Nazi Germany, a legalized, systematized and meticulously documented mass robbery carried out by the German tax offices, which greatly benefited the average non-Jewish German citizen.
Luise’s current documentary film, The Second Execution of Romell Broom, which she co-authored with Michael Verhoeven and was the assistant director and interviewer on, deals with the case of Romell Broom, and his failed execution on Sept. 15th, 2009, in Lucasville, Ohio. The film explores the legal and moral repercussions of the first failed execution in America in over sixty years, and examines the background of the criminal case that led to Mr. Broom’s conviction.
She recently co-authored the feature film Kicking Ash with Los Angeles based screenwriter Frederick Johntz and is currently writing two new feature film scripts. Luise has also worked extensively in the German film and Television industry as an assistant director. She lives in Berlin and Los Angeles.