« Rep. Ryan's new anti-poverty proposal calls for federal sentencing and prison reforms | Main | Is Judge Kozinski recent opinion proof that "the death penalty is doomed"? »

July 25, 2014

"After troubled execution in Arizona, Ohio to use same drugs, dosage"

The title of this post is the headline of this new article in my own Columbus Dispatch, which highlights that the Buckeye State's execution plans for later this year could be further complicated by the ugly execution that took place in Arizona earlier this week.  Here are the details:

Despite problems that plagued an Arizona execution, Ohio officials plan to use the same drugs in the same quantity during Ronald Phillips’ execution scheduled for Sept. 18.

Capital punishment in Ohio has been on hold for two months because of an order by U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost in a lethal-injection case.  Frost’s order expires on Aug. 15. Barring further legal action, the execution will proceed for Phillips, a Summit County child-killer who already has had two reprieves.

However, the troubled execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona on Wednesday turned up the heat on a death-penalty debate that began on Jan. 16 when Ohio executed Dennis McGuire using a then-untested chemical combination.

Wood, 55, died after gasping and snorting for about 90 minutes during an execution process that lasted nearly two hours.  The process took so long that Wood’s attorneys had time to file an emergency appeal in federal court during the execution — and the Arizona Supreme Court held an impromptu conference to discuss it. A witness said Wood looked like “a fish on shore gulping for air,” according to The Arizona Republic.

Jill Del Greco, spokeswoman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, said she could not predict what might happen after Frost’s order expires.  But she added, “As of now, an execution is still scheduled for Sept. 18.” Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is “always evaluating our policies to ensure executions in Ohio are carried out in a humane and lawful manner,” spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said. “Because there is pending litigation regarding this matter, I cannot comment further.”

While prison officials concluded that McGuire, 53, did not feel “pain or distress” during his execution, 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.”

Phillips, 40, was scheduled to be put to death last Nov. 14, but Gov. John Kasich postponed his execution by seven months to give the inmate 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. That date was postponed by Frost’s order.

The state switched to the two drugs for intravenous injection for McGuire's execution because pentobarbital, the single drug used before, no longer is available because manufacturers will not sell it for use in executions.

Recent related posts:

July 25, 2014 at 08:24 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "After troubled execution in Arizona, Ohio to use same drugs, dosage":


I put this out without comment ... wonder if anyone finds it inappropriate:


Should he be talking to the press like this?

Posted by: Joe | Jul 25, 2014 9:48:52 AM

What amazes me is that these botched executions have not caused any major outbursts among those death row inmates who are now close to exhausting their appeals. What incentive do such death row inmates now have for behaving themselves with the staff/officers? It's a wonder that no blow-up to my knowledge has occurred on these death rows that use this type of execution. In any event, if any major inmate outburst did occur on death row, it would not be the first time despite its rarity. In 1979 after Spenkelick's (sp.?) execution, another death row inmate killed a corrections officer over an unrelated issue (the guard made a last-minute excuse not allow that particular inmate to visit with his loved ones in the visiting room merely because that inmate forgot to comb his hair) where the inmate lost it and killed the guard. In 1980, we had a major break-out among four death row inmates in Reidsville, GA, followed by a similar mass break out five years later from Virginia's then new high-tech super maximum security death row during Chuck Robb's Governorship--which seemed to damage that governor's future political prospects.

Can the nation's death rows keep the lid on? Time will tell.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Jul 25, 2014 9:57:35 AM

The incentive would be that if they acted out, they would lose privileges and when you are in prison, even little things (especially them at times) can be important. Your example underlines this very fact -- the guy was set off by losing a privilege.

As far as things go, is the chance (and it still is only a chance, it doesn't happen each time), of some problem right before they die really going to change much?

Posted by: Joe | Jul 25, 2014 10:06:15 AM

Doug - an an advisor/expert on a recent Death Penalty review committee in Ohio, might you not call upon, privately or better still publically, for a stay and rethink - on the grounds that the review you helped produce, did not envisage the practice of a clear process of execution that can best be described as amounting to an abuse of human dignity, and likely a punishment that is cruel and unusual to the extent of contravening, in spirit if not the letter of, the State and US Constitutions? In fact, are you not beholden to do so as a matter of both personal and professional credibility?

Posted by: peter | Jul 25, 2014 10:26:23 AM

You got a point there, Joe.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Jul 25, 2014 1:16:52 PM

Peter: Not cool exploiting this blog for cheap partisan lobbying of its owner, especially with your implication of moral turpitude and failure of duty, along with thinly veiled question about crimes against humanity. These have technical and serious meaning to the ethical lawyer. You do not have good manners.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 25, 2014 9:14:05 PM

The condemned was asleep. The drug peaked at two hours and took effect. Stop the lying about the suffering.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 26, 2014 3:24:18 AM

Supremacy - thanks for the lecture. It is interesting that you use the term ethical lawyer. Indeed, I believe all lawyers should be ethical. However, an even more important characteristic I would like to associate with the greatest lawyers is wisdom. It's what I look for especially in those who serve on the Supreme Court. Regretably, I find it difficult to see a predominance of that at present. The good technical and ethical lawyer is deficient as a good advocate without the capacity for wisdom.

Posted by: peter | Jul 26, 2014 3:25:33 AM

Arizona provides no meaningful privileges to those on DR. An outburst within the confines of a cell does little in the way of attention. Now, speaking of the other area's of confine such as Central, Browning, SMU, the DOC anticipated that the inmates would react, but due to the nature of the crime (against a women), there was no oppositional reaction. It has been reported that a few CO's did make snide remarks which could be interpreted as malicious teasing, but no-one took the bait.
Arizona had previously partook in covert operations to access the drugs necessary to kill someone, December 6, 2010 "State officials from California and Arizona traded execution drugs; California provided Arizona with pancuronium bromide and Arizona provided California with sodium thiopental. (ACLU website).
Clearly there is an excessive desire to execute that in my opinion is questionable in so many directions.

Posted by: Jennifer | Jul 26, 2014 1:05:29 PM

Peter. The failures of the law are 100 times worse than any civilian has any idea. They are in all subjects. The main cause is atavism, in their not letting go of culture and doctrine fron 1275 AD. One good thing about lawyers is adherence to their Rules of Conduct. You are certainly free to argue as you please. However, facts are persuasive, logic, common sense. So it is unnecessary to beat the lawyer over the head with ethical standards. Assume they want to be ethical.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 26, 2014 1:54:21 PM

Jennifer, do you mean if he had done that crime against a MAN under the same aggravating circumstances that he did to this particular woman that the other inmates WOULD automatically HAVE shown an oppositional reaction? I'm not sure. They didn't like Juan Corona, all of whose victims were MALE adults in their mid-twenties; nor did they like Jeffrey Dahmer any more than they liked Phillips, I presume. Dahmer's victims were all male (and presumably adult). They would even be far LESS likely to show oppositional reaction to the execution of somebody like Susan Smith, Ronald Maddox, or Joel Steinberg, all of whose victims were CHILDREN of both genders, than they would to Ronald Phillip's horrible crime since Phillip's victim apparently was an ADULT, not a child or infant. Since Susan Smith had attempted to falsely implicate an innocent (in this case, a black)man, the inmates probably would not have taken too kindly to her either partly because she killed children BUT also because of her attempt to make an innocent person take the rap for her. Even other WHITE inmates would have been angry with her, to say nothing about BLACK inmates!

Inmates usually have a hierarchy of crimes they don't like, usually in the following order. First, they hate snitches. Second, they hate those who harm or murder children. Third, they hate those who kill woman (depending of course upon the circumstances of the woman's murder. Example, inmates sometimes make exceptions to this third rule if the killed woman was "unfaithful," a boss who mistreated her employees thus driving a disgrutled employee to murder her, or if she were a type of criminal herself whose crimes also infuriated other inmates. Fourthly and finally, inmates don't like it if somebody harms or murders a "solid" man or if the person of either gender who killed a man had committed a type of crime that did not sit well with the other inmates, like the crimes committed by Dahmer, Smith, Steinberg, et al.

So, maybe Jennifer is right in her assumption; maybe not.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Jul 26, 2014 4:41:58 PM


Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jul 26, 2014 10:00:43 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB