With the execution of Dennis McGuire on January 16, 2014, the state of Ohio undertook an experimental use of drugs to kill him.
Prior to his execution, McGuire’s attorney’s warned that this untested use of the sedative and painkiller used to carry out the execution would likely lead to extreme suffering and the sensation of “air hunger”.
Associated Press reporter Andrew Welsh-Huggins, who witnessed the execution, said it took more than fifteen minutes for McGuire to die. Another reporter at the scene, Alan Johnson of the Columbus Dispatch, observed:
At about 10:33 a.m., McGuire started struggling and gasping loudly for air, making snorting and choking sounds that lasted for at least 10 minutes, with his chest heaving and his fist clenched. Deep, rattling sounds emanated from his mouth. For the last several moments before he was pronounced dead, he was still.
Even if execution itself is not (yet) a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment,” certainly a torturous death using experimental drug combinations is.
While Ohio remains one of the most active execution states, the need for a thorough review of their capital punishment practices was recognized by the Ohio State Supreme Court in 2011 when it called for the creation of a Joint Task Force to study the administration of the death penalty.
Their job was to “assess whether the death penalty in Ohio is administered in the most fair and judicious manner possible; and determine if the administrative and procedural mechanisms for the administration of the death penalty in Ohio are in proper form or in need of adjustment.”
The Task Force has now completed its work and is prepared to share its findings and recommendations this spring.
Join the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Ohioans to Stop Executions in calling on Gov. Kasich to implement an immediate moratorium on the death penalty in Ohio until the Joint Task Force has had the opportunity publish its findings and recommendations and until the legislature has had the opportunity to review these findings and adopt related legislation.
It makes no sense to continue with untested, possibly torturous executions while the very framework of Ohio’s death penalty system is under review.
Gov. Kasich has given thoughtful consideration to several death penalty cases, however, his track record is inconsistent. With our collective voices, we are confident that the governor will do the right thing and call for a moratorium until the legislature has the opportunity to review the findings and adopt related legislation.