July 13, 2017
For the past several years, Ohio has struggled to resume carrying out executions. They have had to reschedule executions numerous times, leading the state of have executions scheduled all the way through 2021. But, with a recent ruling by the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals, Ohio looks to start carrying out executions again.
Executions came to an abrupt halt in Ohio following the January 2014 execution of Dennis McGuire, where the state employed a new, never-before-used combination of drugs. It took nearly 25 minutes for Dennis to be pronounced as deceased. After the execution, witnesses to the execution reported that Dennis did not appear to be fully unconscious during the execution, as he was allegedly moving. Following an in-depth investigation, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections determined that Dennis was unconscious for the execution, however, they increased the amount of the drugs used during the execution.
After the execution protocol was revised, several inmates filed appeals. This action caused Judge Gregory Frost to postpone all scheduled executions until the lawsuit was resolved. Further complications to continuing executions arose in December of 2014. The state legislature passed a law that would protect the identities of those who supply executions drugs. Opponents claim that this law hinders the inmates’ ability to appeal their execution, as well as leaves open the opportunity for the state to purchase and use drugs that may not be up to standard.
In January of 2015, Ohio approved another new execution protocol, which uses a new and different combination of drugs than the ones used to execute Dennis. However, Ohio did not have a supply of execution drugs. Therefore, all executions were postponed until January of 2016, to allow time to purchase the drugs, and - hopefully - conclude legal challenges.
By October of 2015, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections recognized that they would not be able to obtain the necessary drugs in time to resume executions in early 2016. All executions were, once again, rescheduled to begin in January of 2017, with the execution of Ronald Phillips.
Ronald’s execution has been delayed and rescheduled numerous times since then, due to legal challenges. Several lower courts and a three-judge panel for the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals effectively halted executions by ruling that midazolam was not an acceptable drug to be used in executions, even though the Supreme Court of the United States ruled the opposite on June 30, 2015. Upon appeal of the lower court decisions, the full 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear the case. On June 29, 2017, the full 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 8-6 that Ohio could resume lethal injections. Opponents have stated that they will appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.