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January 31, 2015

After adopting new execution drug laws, Ohio delays all executions for additional year

As explained in this AP article, a full year after Ohio had difficulties executing Dennis McGuire and a month after the state enacted new execution laws, Ohio officials decided to kick the execution can another year down the road by rescheduling all 2015 scheduled executions.  Here are the details:

The state on Friday rescheduled executions for seven death row inmates as it tries to find new lethal drugs, meaning no inmate will be put to death in Ohio in 2015.  The announcement affects six executions this year, including one set for Feb. 11 for condemned child killer Ronald Phillips, and one previously scheduled for 2016 that was pushed farther back.

The move, which was expected, follows a federal judge's previous order delaying executions while the state puts a new execution policy in place, the state said.  The delays also allow the state time to find supplies of new drugs, according to the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.  The new execution policy calls for Ohio to use drugs it doesn't have and has had difficulty obtaining in the past.

The delays mean that for the first time Ohio won't execute anyone in a calendar year since the state resumed putting inmates to death in 1999.  The state put one inmate to death last year and three in 2013.  A total of 11 executions are scheduled for 2016.  Under the revised schedule, the next execution is Jan. 21, 2016, when Phillips is scheduled to die for the 1993 rape and killing of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron.

 Tim Young, the state public defender, applauded the move, saying there was no need for executions "until we have answers to the numerous legal and medical questions posed by lethal injection."

Earlier this month, the state ditched its two-drug method after problematic executions in Ohio a year ago and Arizona in July.  Ohio's supplies of those drugs, midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller, were already set to expire this year. Underscoring concerns about midazolam, the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week ordered Oklahoma to postpone lethal injections executions using the drug until the court rules in a challenge involving midazolam.

Ohio's execution policy now calls for it to use versions of thiopental sodium or compounded pentobarbital, neither of which it has.  Death penalty experts question where Ohio would find supplies of thiopental sodium, saying it's no longer available in the U.S. and overseas imports would run afoul of importing bans.

Notably, before Ohio started having major problems with lethal injection protocols, the state had become one of the most active and effective states carrying out death sentences. The state completed nearly 50 executions from 2002 through 2012, and a few years in that period it was second only Texas in the number of executions completed. But lethal injection difficulties and litigation entailed that the state could carry out only three executions in 2013, only one in 2014 and now there will be none in 2015.

I expect that Ohio officials will be try pretty hard to get its machinery of death up and running again in 2016, and it is possible a Supreme Court decision about lethal injection protocols in Oklahoma might actually end up helping the state get its execution chamber back on line. But the 140 men and one woman now on Ohio's death row (and their lawyers) should be breathing a little easier today. And it now seems that much more likely that the majority of these murders will end up just dying in prison rather than be subject to an affirmative state killing.

January 31, 2015 at 09:49 AM | Permalink


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"nearly 50 executions from 2002 through 2012"

what is that? five a year?

In 2002, there were 80 murders in Cleveland alone.


The numbers are different only in degree pre-1970s.

So, even without the lethal injection protocol litigation and other concerns, Ohio (second to Texas?!) only executed a tiny fraction of those who murder people. This would be true even if every single person on death row was executed. Which won't happen and never happened -- in 1815, it didn't happen.

This can be spun various ways -- it does make the death penalty look better in a fashion. But, it also helps explain the delays and all. If we are dealing with five or whatever (and that isn't atypical in death states) a year, it's fairly easy for the state to been inclined to play it safe when some problem seems to arise.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 31, 2015 10:29:04 AM

Even so, looks like 2015 is going to be a good year for getting justice on some horrible horrible killers.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 31, 2015 12:14:24 PM

Expired medications are still good for over a decade, so said FDA chemists analyzing a huge warehouse of expired medications belonging to the military.

Again, we are back in the lawyer Twilight Zone. The FDA does not have oversight over poisons. The Agriculture department does. All principles applying to health restoring medications are completely irrelevant and unlawful in the death penalty. So any debate about "safety" is cuckoo. Did the person die? Was there evidence of consciousness and pain?

Most of the problems do not stem from effectiveness. they stem from application. The untrained executioners infuse the poison into tissue instead of into a vein. So everything takes longer to diffuse into the body and to reach the brain. Send prison guards to intravenous infusion schools. Have them volunteer as EMT's so they practice starting IV's under difficult circumstances in difficult patients, such as shockie accident victims, with collapsed veins. I have proposed this remedy many times to no avail, because the lawyer does not want a solution. It wants delay and more appellate debate.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 1, 2015 11:52:26 AM

I'm sure glad I don't live in Ohio. With this drop in deterrence, certainly would-be capital murderers will be adjusting their rational-decision-making spreadsheets and deciding 2015 is the year it makes sense to commit a capital murder.

Posted by: anon | Feb 2, 2015 11:09:18 AM

"this drop in deterrence"

The word "drop" is fitting for the "deterrence" to the would be murderer (a short term thinker type usually, often with drug and/or other problems) who will be any way motivated by the fact five less people will be executed this year among the small number of murderers already executed. The small positive change in overall concern for life provided by the move that is concerned about execution protocols very well might negate that.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 2, 2015 11:59:46 AM

In case it was not obvious, my comment was delivered with tongue firmly planted in cheek. As you suggest, most if not all capital murderers are too impulsive and/or impaired (and/or under-informed on the status of capital post-conviction litigation) to take any note of a tiny potential reduction in the odds that they would be punished with death instead of LWOP...

Posted by: anon | Feb 2, 2015 12:45:15 PM

Sorry for being repetitive.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 2, 2015 1:15:00 PM

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