Death penalty under fire

Family alleges Ohio execution unconstitutional.
Associated Press
Jan 25, 2014


The prolonged execution of an inmate during which he repeatedly gasped and snorted amounted to cruel and unusual punishment which should not be allowed to happen again, the inmate's family said in a federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed late Friday, also alleges the drug maker that produced the medications illegally allowed them to be used for an execution and should be prohibited from making them available for capital punishment.

Dennis McGuire "repeated cycles of snorting, gurgling and arching his back, appearing to writhe in pain," the lawsuit said. "It looked and sounded as though he was suffocating."

McGuire's execution Jan. 16 lasted 26 minutes, the longest since the state resumed putting inmates to death in 1999, according to an Associated Press analysis of all 53 execution logs maintained by the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

It remains unclear what McGuire experienced. The AP observed him appearing to fall unconscious and remaining so while he snorted, gasped and opened and shut his mouth repeatedly.

McGuire's execution, during which his adult children sobbed in dismay, has led to several calls for a moratorium on capital punishment in the state.

In addition, a separate federal lawsuit filed Thursday seeks to stop the March execution of a northeast Ohio killer on the grounds that condemned inmates could be clinically alive for as long as 45 minutes after a time of death is announced in the state death chamber.

Attorneys for Gregory Lott, who is scheduled to die March 19 for setting an East Cleveland man on fire in 1986 and leaving him to die, also say Ohio is breaking state and federal law by using the drugs without a prescription.

The lawsuit by McGuire's family targets Lake Forest, Ill.-based Hospira Inc., the manufacturer of the drugs used in McGuire's execution.

The company knew its drugs were being used for executions but continued to sell them to Ohio, according to the lawsuit, which seeks damages above $75,000.

Hospira should have known that the drugs "would cause unnecessary and extreme pain and suffering during the execution process," the lawsuit said.

In 2011, Hospira ended production of sodium thiopental, a drug used by many states for executions, including Ohio, after it couldn't guarantee to Italian authorities where its factory was located that the drug wouldn't be used for capital punishment.

The company also has prohibited other drugs from being used in executions, and took the same steps for midazolam and hydromorphone, the drugs used in the McGuire execution, last year, according to a company statement. Hospira said its distributors have also agreed not to sell the drugs to prisons.

Medical experts wouldn't comment on McGuire's execution or speculate about what he experienced. They agreed that used for surgeries, the two drugs by themselves wouldn't cause pain.

"They are actually used to prevent any pain or discomfort, in a surgical procedure or any other kind of procedure as well," said Robert Weber, administrator for pharmacy services at the Ohio State University medical center.

The first drug, midazolam — sometimes known by its trade name Versed — is administered in surgery to help calm patients, said Dr. Howard Nearman, professor of anesthesiology at Case Western Reserve University. The second, hydromorphone, known by the trade name Dilaudid, is a strong narcotic meant to reduce pain.

"By virtue of what they do, they cause unconsciousness and they inhibit pain," Nearman said.

An anesthesiologist hired by McGuire's attorneys before his execution predicted the inmate would suffer "agony and terror" as he experienced a phenomenon known as air hunger, or the desperate attempt to catch his breath as he suffocated.

An anesthesiologist hired by the state disputed that scenario. That doctor, Mark Dershwitz of the University of Massachusetts, also said McGuire's airways could become obstructed and he might snore as a result, though he would not suffer.

The obstruction of a patient's airways can be a common reaction to sedation, especially if the patient is obese, said Dr. Andrew Casabianca, interim chair of the University of Toledo College of Medicine's Department of Anesthesia.

"Their respiratory rate starts slowing down. Their heart rate may slow down. Their ventilation slows down," he said.

The drugs weren't designed to cause death, Jon Paul Rion, the McGuire family attorney, told the AP Friday.

"There's a clear distinction between a therapeutic use of a drug in a medical environment as opposed to using that drug in an execution style," he said.

"That's the concern, that we're taking drugs that have therapeutic value and we're not using them for the purposes for which the FDA approved nor for which the clinical tests were performed," he said.


Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at




heck I don't care if he rolled around grasping at his throat and suffered the entire time...what he did to his victim was no less cruel and unusual...and we all know she screw him and his family...they shall now suffer like the victims family, knowing their family member may have suffered...


I agree

Good 2 B Me

That is minimal punishment for what he did! He should have suffered much more than that!


Couldn't agree more! They want to argue his execution was unconstitutional well I'm pretty sure rape and murder is unconstitutional as well. They should have cut his gonads off and given them to his mother! IMO they need to go back to public execution and allow the victims family to choose the method of execution then televise it on every channel in the state.


I have said this many times...make the ppl see what will happen to you if you f up...many other countries do public executions, why should we be any different.

Simple Enough II

Well lets try lead poisoning next time, like 125 grains administered behind either ear!

JudgeMeNot's picture





Here are examples of cruel and unusual punishments:
"15+ Most Awfully Painful Methods Of Execution"

Graphic wording and drawings but no actual photographs.

I watched my loved ones pass away and they suffered for days and weeks before they died. They harmed nobody yet they had to suffer.


He should have suffered more!


The fact that this piece of trash killed an innocent woman and her unborn baby by stabbing them to death is what's unconstitutional!!!!! He should have suffered more than he did!! His body "gasped" for air, but I'm sure he probably didn't feel a damn thing, unlike his victims!!!!


Even people who die naturally sometimes gasp for breath at the end. No sympathy here. Perhaps the daughter should not have attended, but that was her choice. His victim didn't get a choice.

red white and blue


thinkagain's picture

All life belongs to God, from the moment of conception to its natural ending. We all deserve the death penalty, but for those who believe, Jesus took our death penalty from us.

The death penalty has never brought back a life, never inspired anything but hate, as evidenced by the above vengeful and bloodthirsty comments. It is also unfairly applied and it has killed many innocent people.


cry me a river this jackwagon got what he deserved, go hug a tree

Stevie Renee

So let me get this correct "think again" Did God give this sadist permission to grant this young women & unborn child their "natural ending?" Also in this case his DNA was found inside this poor women- Really leaves ANY doubt that he "maybe innocent "

Good 2 B Me

This country was not founded on Christianity, stop preaching. This man MURDERED. He deserved much more pain and suffering than he received.

44846GWP know a lot about hate don't you..

red white and blue

Think again I am also a Christian FIRST.Taking Jesus out of our everyday life's has brought us to the murders and child molesters like the man above! There for I say hang them and let god sort them out


I agree, we need to go back to a firing squad. Or pubic hangings! No I didn't mean to type public, pubic hangings would be a better deterant.

From the Grave

Let's make sure that Ohioans have enough to eat before we worry about this issue(maybe some decent jobs would help that cause).


This by far is the biggest crock of sh** that I have seen in a while. I have no sympathy for him or his family. He suffered, good! He should have. I hope by god that this piece of sh**'s family doesn't see a single dime from this and if by some travesty of justice they do, I hope that the family of the deceased woman sues the living crap out of his estate for "wrongful death". Judging by the comments left so far, they better hope a jury doesn't decide this case. They have already lost in the court of public opinion by the looks of things.


Hey should have like his victims


I hope his daughter knows that karma will get her. She obviously didn't give a SHlT that her father murdered 2 innocent people, plus raped one. If that was my father, I wouldn't even had showed up to watch him die. If I had, it would have been to cheer when he did.


Let's save the world first! Give me a break, its the liberal bleeding hearts that have got us where we are!! That scum didn't have any concern about cutting her throat, why should I give 2 $h1ts about how he dies??? Cheap and painful should be the requirements.


Are we really this concerned with a convicted murderer
An Ohio man who raped and stabbed to death a pregnant woman, what about the pain and suffering this woman and her baby went thru. This is rediculous that anyone even questions how and when a death row inmate dies. I feel no remorse for these individuals. They chose their path and their destiny and now the judgement is being carried out. Why is it that the murderer is thought of more at times than the victim, why shouldn't the punishment fit the crime and if they suffer a little or a lot, they made many others suffer including their victim.

nosey rosey

He gave away his constitutional rights when he was convicted and placed on death row.


A couple shots of that stuff pooh drinks would have done the trick. How do you survive it pooh?


pekertracker how did you survive this long with no brain?

JudgeMeNot's picture

deercrapper is a programed 0-bamabot.


And a a$$hole


Similar to Ricky Vitte. People are sick of takers & liars. We want better. Things like this need voted on by the populace.


The (imagined) Horror of Dennis McGuire's Execution
Dudley Sharp

He didn't feel a thing.

Ohio justly executed rapist/torturer/murderer Dennis McGuire.

Unconscious, he snored and the media went apoplectic.

The Horror is that the media will have 10,000 more articles about the imagined suffering of this executed rapist/torturer/murderer than they did about the real suffering of his victims, Joy Stewart, her husband Kenny, unborn child Carl and their families and friends.

There is no indication that McGuire was conscious or in pain at any time after the first 2-3 minutes of the 25 minute execution process, as pharmacological realities would dictate (see below).

Do folks wheeze, snore, move or cough etc. while sleeping? Do those with opiate overdoses wheeze, snore, move, cough, have spasms, etc.? Of course, which is all that happened with McGuire, as some predicted.

The Associate Press witness:

"McGuire was still for almost five minutes, then emitted a loud snort, as if snoring, and continued to make that sound over the next several minutes. He also soundlessly opened and shut his mouth several times as his stomach rose and fell." "A coughing sound was Dennis McGuire’s last apparent movement, at 10:43 a.m. He was pronounced dead 10 minutes later." (OHIO KILLER EXECUTED WITH NEW LETHAL DRUG COMBO, ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS AP Legal Affairs Writer, The Daily Record, January 16, 2014 2:57PM

No evidence of consciousness or pain.

Possibly, someone in the media will look up the overdose properties of the drugs involved (below) and tell us how McGuire could, possibly, have been conscious. He couldn't have been.

The properties of the drugs and their overdosing effects are very well known - by no means an experiment.

FACT CHECKING: Midazolam, a sedative, & Hydromorphone, an opiate/painkiller

The Ohio lethal injection protocol is 10mg of midazolam & 40mg of hydromorphone, mixed together then injected.

The injection took 20 seconds.

The toxicity of benzodiazepines (including midazolam) overdose and risk of death is increased when combined with opiates and when used intravenously, with symptoms including respiratory distress, coma and death.

"More than 80 deaths have occurred after the use of midazolam . . . 78% of the deaths associated with midazolam were respiratory in nature." (MIDAZOLAM HYDROCHLORIDE: Human Health Effects,

"The initial intravenous dose for sedation in adult patients may be as little as 1 mg, but should not exceed 2.5 mg in a normal healthy adult.", Midazolam Injection,

4 times that initial maximum dose was given to McGuire.

However, " . . . total dose >5 mg (of midazolam) "usually" (my emphasis) not necessary to reach desired sedation . . .", Medscape, midazolam (Rx) - Versed, IV,

Hydromorphone overdose,

"IV initial dose: 0.2 to 1 mg every 2 to 3 hours (given slowly over at least 2 to 3 minutes)", Hydromorphone Dosage,

40-200 times those dosages were given to McGuire.

2cents's picture

Bring back old sparky, if the power company refuses to sell you power use you stand by generator!