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Flawed Arizona execution must force another look at Ohio's death cocktail Bookmark

The Plain Dealer

By Editorial Board
on July 28, 2014 at 4:05 PM

Another execution. Another debacle. Another debate.

This time the backdrop was a death chamber in Arizona. Condemned killer Joseph Rudolph Wood III took an hour and 40 minutes to die from lethal injection. For most of that time, he "gasped and struggled for breath," according to an account from Reuters.

One witness said Wood looked like "a fish on shore gulping for air."

Wood was put to death with a combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a narcotic painkiller, the same drugs Ohio used when it executed Dennis McGuire in January. McGuire gasped and gulped in similar fashion while taking 26 minutes to die.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction stated after a review of McGuire's execution that he did not suffer "any pain and distress," but that the state would up the lethal dosage.

Well, the same dosage now contemplated by Ohio is what Arizona administered to Wood, according to Northeast Ohio Media Group reporter Jeremy Pelzer.

Gov. John Kasich should step in to insist on a more comprehensive investigation in Ohio.

This editorial board has long opposed the death penalty, but if Ohio is going to continue to execute prisoners, it must at a minimum certify that it can do so constitutionally, which means without cruel, painful, drawn-out deaths.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has called for an independent review of Wood's execution, just as Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin did after condemned killer Clayton Lockett died of a massive heart attack in April when a different combination of drugs could not be properly administered.

Kasich, to his credit, has provided clemency to five death-row inmates since taking office in 2011, citing various reasons unrelated to the method of execution. After McGuire's controversial death, he postponed the next scheduled execution to allow for an internal review.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost in Columbus has issued a moratorium on executions in Ohio until Aug. 15 to allow for further debate over the state's lethal-injection process.

Kasich should now set an indefinite moratorium of his own and insist on a more complete probe of the state of the state's death drugs.