More Poison For the Executioner

Deborah Denno in Le Nouvel Observateur (France), March 20, 2014

This is a confidential document of 13 pages, written by the prison administration in Ohio. From 15 January 2014 to 7 am overnight 12 h 9 min 47 s, this report describes each instant preparations and killing the condemned Dennis McGuire, 53. We learn all of countdown begins with his departure from prison Chillicothe, where the death row in Ohio for the Lucasville, where was installed the death chamber, the execution chamber at forty-five minutes from prison van.

We know that the man drank coffee and Coke. Ate roast beef and grilled chicken, white beans with tomato sauce and pineapple slices. He saw his children and talked on the phone with her mother. He was given a toothbrush and deodorant. Sometimes he joked with supervisors. At other times, it has been won by emotion. He did not want to take a shower. He willingly rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt when we wanted to evaluate once again the quality of its veins. And as they were in good condition, there was no problem for him fix catheters. So, it was lying on the stretcher, were fixed straps. And when the prison warden gave the signal agreed (buttoning and unbuttoning his jacket) at 10:27, we pressed the piston syringes.

Used for the first time in the United States, the mixture of midazolam (a sedative) and hydromorphone (a narcotic analgesic) has had its effect. At 10:53, the 305-892 was sentenced death. Then everyone packed up his small business. At 24:47, the family of the victim, that the convict, lawyers, priest, everyone was gone, except for the prison staff. The funeral would work. We do not know that this execution was a torture ...

Read another confidential report sent ten days later by Joseph Andrews, Director of Prison Administration Gary Mohr Special Assistant, you would think it was a performance like so many others: "I have no observation or recommendation. There is no reason to revise the procedure for next time. " No, really? Yet the execution of Dennis McGuire, has since toured the world, triggering a major scandal. Not because of the personality of the convicted: in 1989, he raped and stabbed to death a young woman of 22 years, eight months pregnant, whose husband committed suicide a year later. No, these are the conditions of his killing which caused outrage, when the United States are struggling with an unprecedented crisis to achieve their run sentenced to death. Specifically for the pharmaceutical companies, mostly European, who provided the lethal products have ceased under the pressure of abolitionist activists, supply U.S. prisons ...

Alan Johnson is an old hand. This colossus of 62 years working for thirty years "Columbus Dispatch," the conservative daily the capital of Ohio. Since 1999 when the death penalty was reinstated in the state of the U.S. Midwest, the newspaper "covers" all executions. The presence of the press is required by law. Himself no longer knows how many men he saw die. 18 or 20? Each time, it's the same device: behind families and witnesses, separated from convicted by a thick glass, journalists take place. They must empty their pockets. No phone or camera. It provides them with a notebook, a pencil. Once injection begins, the light is falling. "Frankly, usual, it seems to be a big TV and watch a guy in falling asleep. Sometimes he sighs. At the end, sometimes it has a little lip Blue, said the reporter. But what happened that day, that I had never seen! "

On the large conference table of "Dispatch", Alan asked slips pale yellow lined paper where he recorded the relationship of this "unique". For twenty six minutes exactly, McGuire agonized in public. He choked, suffocated, grunted, snored. He struggled. He tried to lift his head to look for air. Is a long twenty-six minutes. No longer the 53 executions held in Ohio since 1999. To be sure to be understood, Alan Johnson imitate sounds, which were barely muffled by the thickness of the glass. "And then a technician arrived. With a stethoscope, he sought the pulse, the heart. They closed the curtain. Few minutes have passed. Curtain was reopened. And there, there just was pronounced time of death. "

What happened behind the curtain? His big singing voice, the journalist only said: "You know what they recorded on the death certificate of a person sentenced to death Homicide This is what I saw the state that kills someone?.. one on behalf of the law. " The day after the execution, he went to talk to his pastor and asked him to pray for him. It did not quiet soul.

Despite the soothing reports of administration, Republican Gov. John Kasich is still said something had to bell. A few days later, he pushed several months execution, scheduled for March 19, Gregory Lott, who was also taste syringes Lucasville. At the moment, that of Arthur Tyler - for thirty years in the death row and says innocent of the murder for which he was convicted - remains fixed to 28. July 2 and that of Ronald Phillips, already postponed for a few months, so that the administration could consider his request: give some of his organs after his death his mother and sister, who have an urgent need.

The case is considered very seriously. After consultation with experts, it seems that man must first be operated in hospitals, where they could take him to his living kidney, the liver and the spinal cord, before executing, once restored. Who will pay? The social insurance system Medicaid? There is, it seems, the question ...

In a tower in the center of Columbus, a soulless office houses the office of public defenders, these lawyers legal aid paid by the federal government to advocate the use of the death penalty. This may take a long time: ten, twenty, thirty times. In Ohio, they are 147 waiting in the death row. More than 3,000 in all United States. On the wall of Allen Bohnert office, a lawyer for Dennis McGuire, five sheets are pinned. Looks like the shopping list on a kitchen cupboard. The first name is that of Daniel Wilson, executed June 3, 2009. The last, Kareem Jackson, who should be 21 January 2016. Following a failed attempt to escape, the man is in a wheelchair. And yet the young lawyer is hopeful. Despite appearances, things are better ...

And if the death of McGuire, ultimately, served with something? In the final appeals on his behalf - in vain - a renowned anesthesiologist, a Harvard professor, Dr. David Waisel, warned of the risks caused by the mixture of midazolam and hydromorphone: sedation, he explained, would suffice not cause unconsciousness of the convicted, who had every chance of dying choking. Especially since McGuire was obese, suffered from sleep apnea, and the supine position was not favorable. Everything was said. But we had not listened. Instead, an expert appointed by the State asserted that the cocktail may induce in the prisoner ... a feeling of euphoria.

Before such failure, administration, now is forced to wonder. Especially children McGuire decided to continue prison and his executioners and the manufacturer of the products used, the company Hospira, based in Lake Forest, Illinois, for "violation of constitutional rights" of their father. Should they win their case, what would be the future of the death penalty in Ohio, and elsewhere?

Stalking the product, and those who make: for many years it is the task of Maya Foa, a fine young woman and determined, who leads the team "death penalty" from the London-based NGO Reprieve ("suspended") . Pentobarbital, propofol, thiopental sodium, potassium chloride: these substances have no more secret for this lawyer turned detective. It conducts its inquiry on all continents: Europe (England, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Switzerland), the leading provider of U.S. prisons, but also in India, Pakistan, Israel. His technique is lapped. She makes contact with pharmaceutical companies. Their learning when they do not know that their products are used in the U.S. for lethal injections, far from their name, and began a press campaign.

With the Danish company Lundbeck, leading manufacturer of pentobarbital (used especially in the prisons of Ohio), things were not dragged. First meeting in January 2011. Maya Foa explained the situation. The Danes have moved. One of the major shareholders, disgusted, has sold 300,000 shares. The image of the company unscrewed. In July, Lundbeck announced a reform of its distribution system, established in association with Reprieve, which now prohibits its agents to provide correctional institutions or dealer would deal with them. The pattern was the same for the German company Fresenius Kabi, producer of propofol, an anesthetic used most frequently in the United States. Ditto for the Israeli Teva Pharmaceutical Kayem or Bombay ...

Price multiplied by 35

Maya Foa track vials, bills, discrete mailboxes. Thus it was discovered in the back room of a driving school in West London, Elgone Driving Academy, local Dream Pharma, a discrete pharmacy that provided Arizona, California or Georgia vials thiopental, potassium chloride or pancuronium bromide. Taking advantage of the shortage, it was multiplied by 35 the price of the goods she was coming to Austria! English authorities, Maya then gets the ban on exports of products used in lethal injections. December 20, 2011, it is the European Commission, which prohibits the export of sodium thiopental, and eight other products if they are used by prisons. "It is quite interesting to globalization at its own game" fun young woman.

Long, the United States rested on their European suppliers. To obtain the right to produce new lethal substances, should go through the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Facing the shelling of seasoned lawyers, the hypothesis seems more qu'hasardeuse.

Yet, the net still has holes. And Hospira, U.S. producer of midazolam and hydromorphone, decided in 2011 to leave the market executions. But as revealed by Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Associated Press (1), after obtaining access to court documents (invoices and packaging) that denied him the drug that killed Dennis McGuire had been manufactured by Hospira and purchased in 2012 and 2013 to one of its distributors, McKesson, San Francisco.

Because prison administrations across the country, do not know how to do it. Some states - Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee ... decide on a moratorium on executions. Others try to turn to compounding pharmacies, these establishments manufacturing drugs demand and are not regulated - so monitoring - FDA. But they do not have very good reputation in 2012, a survey has shown that one of these pharmacies Massachusetts, lack of hygiene, caused a meningitis epidemic had spread to 20 states, causing the death of 61 people and infecting 700 others.

Circumvent the boycott

Lethal injection has become by far the most common method of execution (more than 1,200 since 1976, in 1365), states must cope as best they can to circumvent the boycott of European suppliers. Virginia offers its inventory in Texas, before they reach the expiry date. In Oklahoma, you type in the fund for buying bus tickets prisoners to pay discreetly supplier liquid. Missouri and Georgia adopt laws requiring secret the names of their suppliers. But nobody is fooled by these morbid sugarcoat. Judge Richard Leon of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently ordered the FDA to serve the prison authorities that the use of drugs manufactured abroad, such as thiopental, was illegal and that they should return their stocks! Confirmed on appeal, to the great satisfaction of the opponents of the death penalty ...

Deborah Denno for law professor at Fordham University in New York, and one of the best specialists of the death penalty in the United States, "we arrived at an impasse unprecedented A real vicious circle. Whether states decide to change their method of execution, it will mean that, for thirty-two years, this method was not good! So it was supposed to be a sign of modernity and bring death without pain! " Although some jurisdictions suggest the possibility of return to the electric chair, firing squad, or even hanging, mindsets have changed. 80 death sentences were handed down last year in the United States , the lowest figure since 1976. And 39 sentenced "only" have been executed against 315 in 1994! 55% of Americans (Pew Research) were in favor of the death penalty in cases of murder: they were 78% in 1996!

And then there is the cost of executions: while the real life costs $ 1 million, the expenditure incurred by a death sentence is estimated at $ 3 million: Fresh trial and endless appeals, maintenance of corridors of death where prisoners are isolated ... Means of some counties are not enough. The Okanogan in Washington State, had to abandon renew its fleet of police to meet the cost of its death row!

Derrick Jamison has known Dennis McGuire. They have spent years side by side in the same death row. "He was a good guy who did a terrible thing." Scripts botched makes him sick. He knows he could be in his place. Arrested at the age of 23 years for the murder of a bar owner of Cincinnati, Jamison himself was sentenced to death in 1985. After twenty years in prison, seventeen isolation, it was found innocent and released in 2005, a few days before the fatal injection. Cap askew, jacket covered with red rhinestones and gold plated teeth, this huge man in black leather pants-like rapper nonchalant today 52 years. Often, he embraces the heavy cross hanging from his neck. "When I left, he said, was given $ 75 and a bus ticket." He has never been compensated for his wrongful imprisonment. Wherever he can, he testifies against the death penalty. He prepares, he said, a book entitled "I am a miracle." When he is in a restaurant, he asked that packs his dinner. He still can not eat in public.