Prolonged Execution by New Drug Cocktail fo Ohio Killer

Deborah Denno in NewStraits Times, January 17, 2014

Media Source

WASHINGTON: A US murderer struggled and gasped for air for at least 10 minutes on Thursday as he was put to death in a prolonged execution using a controversial new drug cocktail, according to witnesses.
A journalist for the Columbus Dispatch newspaper present at the execution  of 53-year-old Dennis McGuire reported that the Ohio killer made “snorting and  choking” sounds as he succumbed.
Ohio officials told AFP that McGuire, sentenced to death in 1989 for the  rape and murder of a young pregnant woman, was declared dead at 10:53 am (1553  GMT).
Journalists who witnessed the execution said the drugs used in the lethal  injection had begun to be administered 24 minutes earlier at the prison in  Lucasville.
Under a new Ohio protocol, McGuire was executed using a cocktail comprising  the sedative midazolam and analgesic hydromorphone, a combination never  previously used in the United States.
The new execution protocol was introduced after Ohio and other US states  that retain the death penalty began running out of barbiturates when European  manufacturers stopped supplying them.
McGuire’s lawyers had opposed the method of execution, saying the killer  would die of asphyxia in a phenomenon known as “air hunger,” inflicting the  sort of cruel and unusual punishment prohibited under the US Constitution.
But appeals, which went all the way to the US Supreme Court, were rejected.
A federal judge in Ohio, Gregory Frost, said “the evidence before the court  failed to present a substantial risk that McGuire will experience severe pain.”   
Journalists who witnessed Thursday’s execution said McGuire appeared to be  suffocating as he was put to death.
According to the pool of reporters, it was the longest execution since Ohio  re-introduced the death penalty in 1999.
“At about 10:33 am, 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,” the Columbus Dispatch reported.
“Deep, rattling sounds emanated from his mouth. For the last several  moments before he was pronounced dead, he was still.”    Death penalty experts voiced concern at the details of McGuire’s death,  saying it pointed to a method of execution which was “egregious and  problematic.”   
“In light of the length and disturbing descriptions of Dennis McGuire’s  execution, in addition to the range of lethal injection complications reported  in other states, it appears that this country’s lethal injection procedure is  more egregious and problematic than it ever has been,” Deborah Denno, from the  Fordham University School of Law, told AFP in an email.
Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at the Reprieve non-profit  group, accused Ohio authorities of ignoring expert advice.
“Ohio was warned by leading experts that experimenting on people in this  way risked causing them serious suffering, and the evidence suggests that this  has been borne out,” Foa said in a statement.
“How many more botched executions do we need to see before executioners  stop using humans as guinea pigs?"
Thursday’s execution was the second carried out this year by US authorities  using new products which appeared to result in suffering of the condemned.
On January 9 in Oklahoma, condemned killer Michael Lee Wilson said he could  feel his “whole body burning” as he was put to death.
Wilson was executed using a mix of drugs including pentobarbital, a  substance commonly used to euthanize animals.
However, these kinds of drugs are now only produced by pharmacies that are  governed by local laws, rather than federal regulators.
A scandal erupted in November 2012 in Massachusetts when poor hygiene at  one of these pharmacies was blamed as the cause of a deadly meningitis outbreak.
McGuire is the third man to be executed in the United States this year.
Ohio executed three of the 39 people put to death in the United States last  year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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