Ohio’s moratorium on execution drugs extended

Controversy surrounding Ohio’s use of new execution drugs continues to mount, as U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost has now extended a moratorium on executions in Ohio until January 15, 2015. This order postpones the execution of Ronald Phillips, set for September 18, for the beating, rape and murder of the 3-year-old daughter of his girlfriend in 1993. Also postponed are the executions of Raymond Tibbets, set for October 15 and Gregory Lott, set for November 19. The Ohio Supreme Court is responsible for rescheduling these executions.

Frost’s order was prompted by on-going issues surrounding the use of new execution drug protocols. Dennis McGuire was the last person executed in Ohio. His execution for the murder of 22-year-old Joy Stewart took place on January 16, 2014, using the same combination of drugs the state was set to use in the upcoming cases. McGuire reportedly struggled for well over ten minutes after he was administered midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller. McGuire’s family filed the case in federal court requesting an injunction against the use of the death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment. A California anesthesiologist serving as an expert for the family has recently signed an affidavit asserting that the execution was not performed humanely.

The drugs used in McGuire’s case are the same controversial drugs used in several other states, including Arizona, where the July 23 execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood III took nearly two hours and required 15 doses before Wood was pronounced dead. Midazolam was also used in the April, 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, in which Lockett died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the execution began.

Ohio had announced in April that it would continue to use midazolam and hydomorphone for future executions, but would up the dosages to prevent further problems. In the past, Ohio used other cocktails of lethal injection medications, and then switched to a single-drug injection called pentobarbital, but the drug manufacturers stopping selling them for use in executions, citing ethics reasons.