Ohio new execution method causes suffering: death row inmate

[JURIST] Attorneys for death row inmate Dennis McGuire on Tuesday filed for a stay of execution in the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website], claiming that Ohio's untried execution method would cause McGuire to experience a suffocation-like syndrome known as air hunger. McGuire's execution was scheduled for January 16 after being found guilty [AP report] of the 1989 rape and fatal stabbing of Joy Stewart. A shortage of Ohio's former execution drug, pentobarbital, has forced a switch to midazolam, a sedative, combined with hydromorphone, a painkiller, which, according to McGuire's attorneys, will not properly sedate him during the execution process, causing agony and terror as he struggles to breathe. A request for clemency was denied by Governor John Kasich [official website] on Tuesday without comment. Federal Judge Gregory Frost scheduled a Friday court date to hear arguments regarding the proposed delay.

In November 2011, the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, Maureen O'Connor [official profile] opened the first meeting of the state's death panel review committee [JURIST report]. O'Connor announced the formation of the committee [JURIST report] in September, in response to Frost's July ruling, which stayed the executions of two inmates [Columbus Dispatch report]. Frost agreed with their arguments that Ohio executes inmates haphazardly, causing an unofficial death penalty moratorium as the federal courts considered the constitutionality of the state's death penalty procedure. In December 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a challenge [JURIST report] to the lethal injection method of execution and indicated that they would not hear further cases regarding lethal injection until the Ohio General Assembly explicitly expanded state review of death penalty cases. In November 2009, Ohio adopted a single-drug lethal injection protocol [JURIST report], replacing the previously used three-drug method. The single-drug lethal injection method has faced numerous challenges, with one case reaching the US Supreme Court. In March 2010, the Supreme Court refused [JURIST report] to stay the execution of an Ohio inmate challenging the state's single-drug execution protocol. Ohio conducted its first execution [JURIST report] using the new procedure in December 2009. The change in procedure came after the state undertook a review [JURIST report] of its lethal injection practices in September 2009, following the planned execution of inmate Romell Broom failed when a suitable vein for the drugs' administration could not be found.

 

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