Ohio delays execution to search for new death penalty drugs

Last year an inmate took 25 minutes to die by lethal injection

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The Independent US

Authorities in Ohio intend to delay at least one lethal injection while they source alternative death penalty drugs to those that caused an inmate to gasp and snort during his execution last year.

Convicted murderer Dennis McGuire, 53, was the first US prisoner to be executed with a new method of lethal injection, using a mix of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. His January 2014 execution was the longest in the state’s history, taking more than 25 minutes, during which witnesses said he gasped and seized repeatedly.

Mr McGuire’s son and daughter then sued the state, alleging his execution constituted cruel and unusual punishment. The inmate’s lawyer, Allen Bohnert, said at the time that his client’s death had been “a failed, agonising experiment”, and that “the people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done in their names”.

The same drug combination later took two hours to kill an inmate in Arizona. In future, Ohio plans to use a single-drug lethal injection for executions: either the barbiturate pentobarbital, or thiopental sodium, an anaesthetic.

 

Ohio Governor John Kasich is expected to delay the execution of convicted killer Ronald Phillips, 41, which was scheduled for February, while the state finds a supplier for the necessary drugs. Two more executions set for March and May could also be postponed.

Ohio is one of 32 US states to have the death penalty, all of which use lethal injection as their primary method of execution. Recently the death penalty has faced delays and difficulties across the country, as states struggle to obtain the drugs used in executions, which have become increasingly scarce since the EU issued a sweeping ban on their export from Europe to US death penalty states.

Last month, Governor Kasich signed a measure to keep secret the names of companies that supply death penalty drugs. Four death row inmates are suing the state, claiming the new law limits information that could add to the public debate about capital punishment.