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Gov. Kasich should move to abolish executions, not schedule them anew: editorial Bookmark

A federal lawsuit before Judge Gregory Frost in Columbus raises serious questions about whether Ohio's lethal-injection protocol is so flawed that it can result in unconstitutionally painful and lingering deaths.

The Plain Dealer

By Editorial Board
on September 14, 2014 at 6:00 AM, updated September 14, 2014 at 6:03 AM
 
A federal lawsuit before Judge Gregory Frost in Columbus raises serious questions about whether Ohio's lethal-injection protocol is so flawed that it can result in unconstitutionally painful and lingering deaths.
 
Frost put a moratorium on Ohio executions -- a stay recently extended to Jan. 15, 2015 -- to give both sides in the legal challenge more time to obtain evidence and present arguments.
 
Yet without waiting for a definitive ruling, Gov. John Kasich earlier this month approved new execution dates, starting Feb. 11, 2015, apparently assuming the state's execution protocol will be upheld by Frost.
 
Frost is to decide whether Ohio's method violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, as well as the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law.
 
Ohio's protocol calls for executioners to administer a lethal injection of pentobarbital. but that drug's European manufacturer doesn't want it used for executions and the use of compounding pharmacies to supply it raises concerns about quality control.
 
The state's Plan B calls for using a combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative. Those drugs were administered to Dennis McGuire, a death row inmate whose execution last January took about 25 minutes and resulted in McGuire gasping and snorting in what some claim was agonizing torture.
 
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said a review determined that McGuire did not suffer undue pain, but how can that be known for sure? The man is dead. The state said that it is upping the dose, yet a recent execution in Arizona using that higher dose also resulted in an extended execution (more than 1 1/2 hours) and a repeat of the troubling spectacle of the condemned man gasping for breath.
 
Critics further question Ohio's conclusions because, if there were no hitches, why the need to up the dose?
 
"If everything went perfectly, everything went smoothly, then what possible cause could there be for them to change what they're doing," Mike Brickner of the American Civil Liberties of Ohio said in April after the state released its report.
 
It's time Ohio joined 18 other states and Washington, D.C., which have all abolished the death penalty – a practice this editorial board believes is unjust, immoral and too costly.
 
At the very least, Kasich should wait for Frost's ruling before queuing up inmates again for execution.


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