FEATURED POST

Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

Image
In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Scheduled to Die in January, Death Row Inmate Challenges Ohio's Execution Policies

Ronald Phillips
Ronald Phillips
Ohio has been fumbling its lethal injection protocol for years — dating back most notably to a failed execution in 2009 — and a series of events are about to collide in a most unpredictable manner.

Ronald Phillips was sentenced to death for the 1993 rape and murder of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. He is scheduled to die on Jan. 12, the first state execution since the widely criticized lethal injection of Dennis McGuire. Last week, Phillips once again asked the state to delay the execution. He's raising questions about the state's three-drug "cocktail," and he's not alone in his legal concerns.

Casting Phillips' personal history to the side for a moment — and recognizing how often the public conflates inmates' criminal cases with the ramifications of subsequent civil litigation — it's worth a moment or two to analyze the circuitous path Ohio has taken in its capital punishment policies. Phillips' latest court filing , two months out from his scheduled death, lends an important opportunity.

For years, Ohio used a blend of three drugs to execute death row inmates, and, for years, reports showed that the drug combination frequently caused painful, prolonged deaths. The Eighth Amendment was cited in critiques, and Ohio Revised Code mandates that execution protocol "quickly and painlessly cause death." 

In 2009, executioners spent two hours prodding and stabbing Romell Broom with needles. They could not find a vein, and the execution was called off. ("I tried to assist them by helping to tie my own arm," Broom later recounted.) The event prompted some governmental soul-searching, and the state decided to abandon its three-drug mixture in favor of a single barbiturate, like pentobarbital or sodium thiopental. The state insisted that complete secrecy was needed to obtain those drugs and that the public was to be shut out of all information on the matter of lethal injection protocol. State lawmakers agreed.

In 2014 — after failing to procure those drugs, and instead using the sedative midazolam in another questionable combination — the state executed Dennis McGuire. He gasped and snorted audibly and took more than 15 minutes to die once the drugs were injected, once again placing scrutiny on how Ohio was carrying out its executions. 

Last month, the state surprisingly announced a return to a three-drug mixture — this time including midazolam, along with rocuronium bromide, a paralytic drug, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart — just in time for its first execution in three years: Ronald Phillips.

"Having thus pursued a lengthy, multi-front campaign for compelled secrecy premised on their need to acquire pentobarbital and/or sodium thiopental, [state leaders] have now made clear that they didn’t mean anything they said," Phillips asserts in his latest request to delay his death. He alleges that the known properties of midazolam and the state's history make it so that executions cannot be carried out in a constitutional manner. "There are no safeguards—training, IVs, etc.—that can cure this fundamental problem."

A jury trial has been requested on certain claims in Phillips' latest complaint.

"With this new execution procedure, Ohio is moving backward toward a procedure that poses greatly increased risks of pain and suffering," Allen Bohnert of the Federal Public Defender's Office said last month.

Source: SCENE, Eric Sandy, November 14, 2016

⚑ | Report an error, an omission; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; send a submission; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.


Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running! DONATE!

Most Viewed (Last 30 Days)

Harris County leads Texas in life without parole sentences as death penalty recedes

Idaho County commissioners take stand against death penalty

Texas: Reginald Blanton executed

30-year-old Chinese inmate bids farewell to daughter, wife and mother before execution

USA: Executions, Death Sentences Up Slightly in 2017

Indonesian death penalty laws to be softened to allow reformed prisoners to avoid execution

Death penalty cases of 2017 featured botched executions, claims of innocence, 'flawed' evidence

Virginia Governor commutes death sentence of killer found mentally incompetent to be executed

5 worrying things we’ve learned from new Saudi execution numbers

Texas man with scheduled execution uses letters from fellow death row inmates to argue for reprieve