Ohio Execution News: Family of Dennis McGuire Seeks Injunction Barring the Execution Protocol Used by the State of Ohio to Carry Out Dennis McGuire’s Death Sentence
Richard W. Schulte, a partner with the Ohio law firm of Wright & Schulte LLC, together with his co-counsel, is representing the family of an Ohio death row inmate who allegedly suffered cruel and unusual punishment in a prolonged Ohio execution carried out by the state on January 16, 2014. According to the Firm, the family of Dennis McGuire filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on January 24th seeking, among other things, a permanent injunction barring the use of the execution protocol used to carry out Mr. McGuire’s death sentence. (Case No. 2:14-cv-00093)
According to the Ohio execution lawsuit filed by his family, Mr. McGuire was the first inmate put to death via the use of an execution protocol that consisted of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. The lawsuit alleges that, prior to Mr. McGuire’s execution, the state of Ohio had not undertaken any testing or trials to determine the efficacy of this drug combination for use in executions, including whether its use would violate the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment set forth in the 8th Amendment of the Constitution.
During a hearing convened prior to the Ohio execution, an anesthesiologist testifying on Mr. McGuire’s behalf expressed concerns about the use of these drugs, the complaint states. Among other things, the witness asserted that there was a substantial risk that the Decedent would suffer a phenomenon known as air hunger, or the desperate attempt to catch his breath as he suffocated.
The lawsuit alleges that when Mr. McGuire’s Ohio execution was carried out on January 16th, he did endure frequent episodes of air hunger and suffocation, as predicted. Following administration of the execution protocol, the Decedent experienced “repeated cycles of snorting, gurgling and arching his back, appearing to writhe in pain,” and “looked and sounded as though he was suffocating.” This continued for 19 minutes. The lawsuit contends that Mr. McGuire was conscious and made audible noises the entire time, though they gradually quieted as he was dying. The Decedent was administered the first of the two drugs beginning at approximately 10:27:49 a.m., but was not pronounced dead until 10:53 a.m.
Defendants named in the McGuire family lawsuit include Donald Morgan, the warden of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, where the execution was carried out, as well as the anonymous members of the state’s execution team.
The lawsuit also names Hospira Inc., the manufacturer of the drugs used in Mr. McGuire’s execution, as a defendant. According to a report from the Associated Press, Hospira ended production of sodium thiopental, a drug used by many states for executions, in 2011. The company has also prohibited other drugs from being used in executions. Hospira said in a statement that it will now take similar steps in regards to midazolam and hydromorphone.
(abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/family-alleges-ohio-execution-unconstitutional-21769656; Associated Press, January 25, 2014)
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