Judge extends temporary halt to Ohio executions

Questions mount over effectiveness of new drugs being used
Associated Press
Aug 11, 2014


A freeze on capital punishment in Ohio will continue into 2015 after a federal judge extended a months-long moratorium on executions as questions mount about the effectiveness of a new, two-drug combination being used to carry out the death penalty.

The ruling by federal judge Gregory Frost delays executions scheduled for September, October, November and January and highlights the ongoing problem faced by states in obtaining drugs to put inmates to death. It may also give Ohio more time to find sources for its preferred method — a single dose of compounded pentobarbital — which has been used without incident several times in Missouri and Texas.

The last Ohio moratorium was scheduled to expire this week, but the one-page order that Frost issued Friday extends it through Jan. 15. At issue is the state's latest death penalty policy change, which was announced in late April and increases the amount of the sedative and painkiller Ohio uses.

Last January, unable to obtain supplies of compounded pentobarbital, Ohio switched to its backup method of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. Condemned killer Dennis McGuire repeatedly gasped during the record 26 minutes it took him to die on Jan. 16, an outcome partly predicted by defense attorneys beforehand.

On April 29 in Oklahoma, an inmate died of an apparent heart attack 43 minutes after his execution began with a three-drug method that starts with midazolam. Officials pointed to improper insertion of the needle delivering the drugs.

On July 23, an inmate took nearly two hours to die in Arizona, which also uses midazolam and hydromorphone.

Missouri and Texas both have supplies of compounded pentobarbital, though the states won't reveal their sources, and have used them to carry out several executions successfully in recent months.

The two states are scheduled to carry out the country's next executions, both on Sept. 10. In Missouri, Earl Ringo is set to die for a July 4, 1998, double slaying at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Columbia, where he was a former employee. In Texas, Willie Trottie is scheduled to die from a single dose of compounded pentobarbital for shooting his former girlfriend and her brother in Houston in 1993.

Given the evidence from Ohio and Arizona about problems with the two-drug method, the extension may be the judge's way of pushing Ohio to switch to its first choice, said Doug Berman, an Ohio State University law professor and death penalty expert.

"It may be that either the state itself is saying, 'With more time we think we can get there,' or at the very least Judge Frost wanting to create an environment to give the state additional time to facilitate that approach to execution," Berman said Monday.

The state prisons agency declined to comment on the order except to say it would be followed. The agency "remains committed to carrying out executions in a humane and lawful manner," according to spokeswoman JoEllen Smith.

Allen Bohnert, the lead defense attorney challenging the use of the two-drug method, declined to comment.

For decades, states used the same three-drug formula for lethal injections: a sedative that rendered the inmate unconscious, usually sodium thiopental, followed by a paralytic agent, usually pancuronium bromide, and finally the drug that stopped the heart, potassium chloride.

But in recent years, major drugmakers, many of them in Europe, stopped selling pharmaceuticals for use in executions, citing ethical concerns. By 2011, with sodium thiopental no longer available, Ohio became the first state to use pentobarbital in a single-drug execution.

The next execution scheduled in Ohio was to have occurred Sept. 18, when Ronald Phillips was set to die for the 1993 rape and death of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron.


Good 2 B Me

Who cares? These scum have committed the most heinous crimes known to man. If they suffer, they suffer. Their victims' friends and families all suffered!


Agree with Good2BMe. It shouldn't rake several decades for justice to be administered.




One bullet to the heart is not that expensive. Better yet between the eyes because I highly doubt any of these monsters has a heart.


No, go for the Trifecta, drug em, shoot em, then zap em, all under $300

Charge viewing fee, offset costs


Oh, were we supposed to feel bad for the criminals? I agree, 1 bullet. No pain, instant death. Problem solved. Pretty cheap too.

thinkagain's picture

State-sponsored murder has never brought back a life, never inspired anything but hate, It is also unfairly applied and it has killed innocent people.

swiss family



I bet you would thinkagain if it was your 3 year old daughter that was raped and murdered by this abomination.


Its wrong to take a life. Yes, I would think differently if it were my child murdered. But that wouldn't make it right. That would make me human.


Grow a spine...you're either for it or against the death penalty. Not when when one of these animals does something to one of your acquaintances can you be for it. Not how it works....but then again its justyou.


I'm against it. If someone killed my child, I would probably be capable of killing that person myself, without the justice system. Does that mean it should be legal? No. My opinion is its wrong and should be illegal to take a life, except in self defense.


r u crappin me?


too bad he is a federal judge...would say vote him out next time...who gives a crap...let them suffer...their victims did I am sure...

lunchtime 175

No one ever said that execution would be a happy experience for the person. For what crime they commited they should at least suffer the last minutes of their life for taking the life of another person. Don't make it too easy for the people on death row or everyone will think it is ok to commit crimes and murders, etc. etc. and go to prison for a free vacation on tax payers money.


All I can say is if you take a life . Yours should be taken the same way . I am so tired of the grinding of the justice wheel . And these do gooders that think they know whats right and egnore the rights of the victms .
Lady justice is suppose to speak for the victims .not the defendents .
That being said . If you suffer at the hands of the state . So be it . I can not and will not feel sorry for you .
Truth be told . The death penalty is suppose to be a deterant to murder. But fact be known its not due to all the extended appeals and delays . It takez from 15 to 20 plus years to follow through with a sentance handed down .on otherwords . Let lady justce prevail in a shorter time . Knock it down to thirty days and get on with it .
These people on death row didnt think about thd rights of their victims . So they shouldnt be able to cry about theirs .


What is wrong with hanging? You can use the rope over and over again, what could be cheaper? Or how about taking them up in an airplane to about 40K feet and pushing them out over the lake? I mean why are we worried about humane executions, they certainly were not humane to their victims!!! That's the good news about Sharia law.


The liberals who cheer the moratorium on executions are the same ones who support the president assassinating citizens without a trial. These slime-bags at least had a trial and years of judicial oversight before they are strapped down. Just goes to show how screwed up this country is, they try to make a execution "Humane" and screw that up when the most humane thing would be to just shoot them.

Rusty of Sandusky

Three very interesting links on the topic. Even if just a fraction of those on death row, what about those who were wrongfully convicted? Are they simply collateral damage? Doesn't the preservation of one innocent life outweigh the punishment of vengeance upon the many who are guilty? Killing someone on death row sets them free -- life in prison is a far worse punishment.





Hang him! Who cares how these animals die. Hell I would be part of a firing squad if I could for people like this. They are dying anyways so who cares if they suffer for a short 45 minutes lol. Call me heartless but I'm a firm believer in an eye for an eye. How do you think their victims felt for the 10 minutes or even 10 years they were tortured?!