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November 14, 2009

How quickly will Ohio be able to get back to executions after adopting one-drug lethal injection protocol?

As noted in this prior post, roughly two months after Ohio had to stop a botched execution, the state has announced the development of a whole new lethal injection protocol.  This New York Times article provides the basic details, and also sets up the big legal question which now follows:

Breaking ranks with the 35 other states that use lethal injections to execute prisoners, Ohio on Friday became the first state to say it would switch to a single drug, rather than a three-drug cocktail, in its death penalty procedure.

Critics have long argued that using a single drug, the preferred method in animal euthanasia, is more humane than the three-drug cocktail, which involves a short-acting barbiturate to render the inmate unconscious, followed by a paralytic and then a chemical to stop the heart....

Ty Alper, associate director of the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, called the change “a significant step forward.” 

“The hope is that other states will realize that there is no need to paralyze inmates before executing them,” he said, “and that, in fact, doing so risks a horribly torturous execution.”

Richard C. Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, which opposes the death penalty, said that while he saw the policy change as an important step forward, he did not believe that Mr. Broom would be executed any time soon.

He said he anticipated that the new method would be delayed by extensive court challenges, with medical experts lining up to testify on both sides of whether the single-drug method is humane.  “The simple fact is that no one knows whether this method will work on humans,” he said, “and what unforeseen side effects there could be to using the drug in this way.”

It is inevitable that death row defendants will medically question and legally challenge Ohio's new one-drug lethal injection protocol.  But I do not think it is inevitable that these legal challenges should take a very long time to resolve.  As Jeff Gamso notes in this post titled "The Execution Express," Ohio officials have indicated that they are ready, willing and eager to start using the new execution protocol ASAP, and Ohio currently has an execution scheduled for each of the next seven months.

I previously predicted that it was unlikely Ohio would get back in the execution business until 2010, but I had not expected the state to roll out a new one-drug lethal ijection protocol (with a back-up plan) so quickly.  I still would be surprised if Ohio succeeds in getting its death chamber revved up again in a matter of weeks; but the federal courts who've long struggled with these issues may perhaps now will be eager to move this matter quickly now that Ohio has adopted a new execution protocol that seems to respond to the chief complaints about the old lethal injection protocol. 

Some related posts on Ohio lethal injection issues:

November 14, 2009 at 03:25 PM | Permalink


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The NYT has committed journalistic malpratice by not asking KentKent for comment, thought I imagine SLP is happy to be quoted.

Posted by: . | Nov 14, 2009 6:05:45 PM

"KentKent" should go find a phone booth and see if he can get his pants on straight. Then maybe he'll get a call.

Posted by: Soo da Nimh | Nov 15, 2009 1:00:40 PM

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