Ohio judge rules death row inmate is ‘not entitled to a pain free execution’

Convicted murderer and rapist, Dennis McGuire, will be put to death using a new cocktail of drugs that could leave him writhing in agony

Ohio's state execution team was tonight finalising plans to dispatch a convicted murderer and rapist on death row on Thursday using a never-before-tried combination of two drugs which defence lawyers say threatens to leave him writhing in agony from "air hunger" before he loses consciousness and expires.

The way was cleared for the execution of Dennis McGuire, 53, when a federal judge in Columbus ruled on Monday that concerns about how the new cocktail would work were not enough to issue a stay even as he acknowledged that it amounted nonetheless to a death chamber "experiment" by the state.

Ohio and other death penalty states have been struggling to keep executions going because supplies of pentobarbital traditionally used in a three-drug mix have all passed their sell-by dates thanks to its Danish manufacturer prohibiting its sale to US prison services. The European Union has also threatened to restrict sales of Propofol, a leading anaesthetic used in hospitals, were US death chambers to use it instead.

In Wyoming, state Senator Bruce Burns, a Republican, said he was tabling proposals to replace death by lethal injection with the firing squad in his state because of the drug shortage crisis. Using marksmen to empty death row would be preferable, he said, than the alternative - building a gas chamber.

Controversy is also raging in Oklahoma following what appears to have been the botched execution last week of Michael Lee Wilson based on his last words uttered after the injection process had begun: "I feel my whole body burning." Exactly what went wrong is unclear because the state is not saying.

The two-drug formula that Ohio has turned to - the sedative midazolam followed by the painkiller hydromorphone - was to have been used for the first time late last year on another inmate, Ronald Phillips. His execution was postponed at the last minute because of uncertainty over whether his request that his organs be donated after death could legally be granted.

Thus McGuire, convicted of the 1989 rape and fatal stabbing of Joy Stewart in western Ohio, is now set to be the guinea pig, barring any last-minute stay by the US Supreme Court or state governor.

In court filings earlier, defence lawyers had contended that "McGuire will experience the agony and terror of air hunger as he struggles to breathe for five minutes after defendants intravenously inject him with the execution drugs". They also suggested that because McGuire suffers from severe sleep apnea the risk of his struggling to fill his lungs for air before he passes out will be increased.

In his ruling on Monday, the US district judge Gregory Frost said he saw no convincing evidence of a "substantial risk" that McGuire would suffer the "severe pain" trying to fill his lungs on the death stretcher that would put his execution at odds with the constitutional prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment".

Almost in the same breath, however, he added that there is "absolutely no question that Ohio's current protocol presents an experiment in lethal injection processes... To pretend otherwise, or that either of the experts or this Court truly knows what the outcome of the experiment will be, would be disingenuous."

In its filings to the judge, the state’s Attorney General's office did not deny the combination might cause discomfort but added: "You're not entitled to a pain-free execution".

Both the Governor, John Kasich, and the Ohio Parole Board have already rejected pleas for clemency for McGuire. Separately, his lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court to issue a stay on the grounds that the jury at his trial were insufficiently informed of the severe difficulties of his child hood.

In making his firing squad proposal, Wyoming's Senator said it was partly about money. "Frankly it's one of the cheapest [options] for the state."

In numbers

32  US states in which capital punishment  is legal.

3,108 Inmates awaiting execution.

22 Juveniles aged 16 and 17 were executed between 1976-2005.

273 Clemencies have been granted in the US  since 1976.

 
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Sport
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems and Network Administrator

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: We are recruiting for a Systems and ...

English Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Group: English as an Additional Langua...

Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

History Teacher

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album