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Clemency denied for child killer despite execution drug concerns

TNS Regional News • Nov 8, 2013 at 7:07 PM

Despite concerns over a new method of capital punishment, a child killer should be executed as scheduled next week, Gov. John Kasich declared today.

Ronald Phillips of Summit County was sentenced to death for raping, beating and killing the 3-year-old daughter of his girlfriend in 1993.

A few hours earlier, U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost in Columbus turned down Phillips’ request to block the execution.

“Because he has failed to meet his burden of proving that a stay is warranted, Ohio can proceed to fulfill its lawful duty to execute Phillips,” Frost said. “Ohio does not have a perfect execution system, but it has a constitutional system that it appears to be following.”

Phillips testified by video in a hearing Friday before Frost that a prison doctor couldn't find veins in his arms last month during an examination. The unusual video testimony came as part of a court challenge of the state's new lethal-injection method.

A shortage of pentobarbital forced Ohio prisons officials to plan on using two drugs they have never used for the execution scheduled for next Thursday.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction will use an intravenous administration of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a strong opiate. While state policy had allowed those drugs in the past – albeit only for direct intramuscular injection – these alternatives have never been used in any executions nationwide.

The Ohio Parole Board unanimously rejected Phillips’ plea for clemency last month, calling his treatment of Sheila Marie Evans “clearly among the worst of the worst capital crimes.” Among her injuries were severe trauma to her internal organs and more than 130 bruises to her face, torso, arms, legs and genitalia, according to the Summit County prosecutor’s office.

"This couldn't be any worse and there couldn't be any other way to make this worse and Ronald Phillips needs to be held accountable for his acts," said Brad Gessner, chief counsel in the prosecutor's office.

Phillips’ attorneys told the parole board that he was repeatedly raped and beaten by his late father, a background no court has heard. But board members found that, although Phillips’ childhood may have been dysfunctional, there is no evidence to prove these recent claims.

Ohio revised its execution policies last month because pentobarbital, the drug most frequently used, is in short supply. Many manufacturers refuse to allow the drug to be used in lethal injections. The new policy allows the state to buy drugs for executions from compounding pharmacies, which mix drugs specifically for a patient or client.

The state used the last of its supply of pentobarbital to execute Harry Mitts Jr. of Cuyahoga County on Sept. 25.


By Darrel Rowland - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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