Ohio changes execution drug protocol as current drugs expire

The New York Times reported yesterday that Ohio will likely delay executions scheduled for this winter and spring as the state switches from using a mix of the drugs midazolam and hydromorphone to either pentobarbital or sodium thiopental. Ohio started using the midazolam and hydromorphone cocktail because officials had been having trouble accessing pentobarbital, which was the state's prior preferred execution drug, when manufacturers refused to sell it to be used in executions.

The state used the cocktail in the execution of Dennis McGuire in January 2014. This created controversy regarding the use of the drugs, as McGuire struggled and choked for nearly 20 minutes during the process. The drugs were also used in an Arizona execution in July that took almost two hours. After McGuire's execution, a federal judge put a moratorium on executions in Ohio until January 2015.

The timing of the change in drug protocol may be prompted by a few factors. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the state's supply of midazolam expires in March and the hydromorphone expires in June. Additionally, as we previously discussed, Governor Kasich has recently signed a bill providing anonymity to manufacturers of execution drugs which would potentially increase the availability of drugs like pentobarbital to the state. This goes into effect in March.  The Times reports that, in the meantime, Ohio's Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is attempting to obtain the drugs for use in the execution process, but it is not clear how it will be able to access them.