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To kill or not to kill?

TNS Regional News • Aug 11, 2014 at 2:07 PM

All three Ohio executions scheduled this year have been postponed by a federal judge because of the continuing controversy over lethal injection drugs.

U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost extended his previous moratorium on executions, which would have expired Friday. Frost’s new order, issued last Friday, pushes the moratorium until Jan. 15.

That forces the postponement of the schedule executions of Ronald Phillips of Summit County on Sept. 18, Raymond Tibbets of Hamilton County on Oct. 15, and Gregory Lott of Cuyahoga County on Nov. 19. They will all have to be rescheduled by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Frost issued the delay “in light of the continuing need for discovery and necessary preparations related to the adoption and implementation of the new execution protocol...The parties shall continue to work together to coordinate efforts so that the court can set necessary deadlines following expiration of the stay.”

Frost’s order responded to the April announcement by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction that it plans to use the same drugs, but in greater quantities, that it used in the troubled execution of Dennis McGuire on Jan. 16. Executions in other states using the same drugs have also had problems.

Prison officials concluded that McGuire, 53, did not feel "pain or distress" during his execution, but witnesses observed that he repeatedly gasped, choked, clenched his fists and appeared to struggle against his restraints for more than 10 minutes after the administration of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller. McGuire was executed for the murder of 22-year-old Joy Stewart in 1989.

It was the first time that those drugs were used in an execution in the United States.

Ohio officials said the dosage for the next execution will be 50 milligrams of midazolam, up from 10 milligrams, and 50 milligrams of hydromorphone, up from 40 milligrams. That is the same quantity used in Wood's execution. Ohio will have a third syringe ready containing 60 milligrams of hydromorphone; other syringes will be prepared and available "if needed."

It is the third reprieve for Phillips whose execution was delayed seven months by Gov. John Kasich to give him the opportunity to make good on his desire to donate a kidney to his ailing mother. Time ran out before arrangements could be finalized, and Phillips was scheduled to die on July 2. His rescheduled execution has now been moved two times by Frost.


Alan Johnson - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

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