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Executions court-approved to resume this month for Ohio's death row inmates

Ronald Phillips
Ronald Phillips
Condemned child killer Ronald Phillips has a date slated with the death chamber

Ronald Phillips, age 43, has his third date with death. He is, now, scheduled for execution by lethal injection on July 26. 

On Wednesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit gave the state of Ohio thumbs-up for its lethal injection protocol. 

The state can resume executing inmates on death row with a 3-drug injection mixture. Phillips is slated to die for having raped and murdered his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in 1993 in Akron, OH.

The court's July 5 opinion - an 8-6 conservative-liberal split - overrides the preliminary injunction that was rendered in January by Judge Michael Merz. As well, the decision reverses an April 3-judge appellate panel determination that upheld the injunction.

Prior death injection drug cocktail stirred court challenges


Using midazolam in the recipe for delivering death led to the higher court's decision-making and eventual opinion early this week. Judge Merz, in Dayton, opined that the drug, only 1 of 3, poses the substantial risk of "serious harm." 

In countering the lower court's contention, Judge Raymond Kethledge penned the majority opinion for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. He states that "some" risk of pain goes hand-in-hand with "any" execution protocol, regardless of how humane. He additionally noted that the anti-death penalty advocate-plaintiffs did not definitely meet the criterion whether the drug cocktail does or is "very likely" to cause serious pain.

Not since January 2014 has Ohio delivered death to condemned inmates on the state's death row.

The last to die when the death sentence was carried out was Dennis McGuire. Witnesses alleged that McGuire snorted, gasped, and seemed to make snorting sounds when the midazolam cocktail was administered.

The effect of McGuire's execution reportedly going haywire led to a legal challenge presented on Phillips' behalf, as well as for death row inmates Raymond Tibbetts and Gary Otte. In response, the state ceased performing executions, like McGuire's, that were administered with a previously "unused" drug cocktail protocol.

Ohio introduced new lethal combo to overcome court setbacks


Not to be dissuaded from exacting the death sentence on the condemned, Ohio created a new drug recipe which it proposed in response to legal challenges. The new and, it is hoped, improved protocol delivers a heart-stopping, paralytic combination: midazolam along with potassium chloride.

With the higher court's ruling this week, Ohio is going over its mandated checklist in preparation for Phillips' upcoming death date.

While the state declined to release checklist documents to The Associated Press, it did verify that the state is compliant with all the required steps for the execution protocol.

Inmate uses age appealing for mercy


July 26 will mark Phillips' 3rd time in 2017 that he received an appointment with the death chamber. He received previous reprieves while legal arguments central to the injection protocol were decided In the lower courts.

Most probably, attorneys will appeal Wednesday's court opinion to the U.S. Supreme Court for its determination that will affect life or death in Ohio for Phillips, Tibbetts, and Otte. Apart from the additional duo of death row inmates, Phillips has an appeal pending that draws his age into the picture for the court to consider.

Though now age 43, he endeavors to have his age at the time of his crime weighed on whether his life should be spared. His appeal states that he should be a candidate for mercy since he was 19-years-old when he murdered his, then, girlfriend's toddler. Previously, the nation's highest court has banned executions of people under age 18.

Ohio's Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is steadfast in its resolve to carry out court-mandated executions in a "dignified manner," according to its spokeswoman.

Source: blastingnews.com, July 8, 2017


Ohio preparing for 1st execution in more than 3 years


Ohio is following a mandatory checklist for putting inmates to death as it prepares for the state's 1st execution in more than 3 years, a prisons agency official said.

The state wouldn't release documents related to those checkups to The Associated Press, saying open records law shields such information.

"We can confirm, however, that to date all steps of Ohio's execution protocol have been complied with in preparation of the execution scheduled later this month," JoEllen Smith, prisons department spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Ronald Phillips, who was convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in 1993 in Akron, is scheduled to die July 26. It's his 3rd execution date of the year following earlier reprieves to allow legal arguments over the drugs Ohio plans to use.

In a significant ruling, a federal appeals court last month opened the door to Phillips' execution and others by permitting Ohio's use of a contested sedative.

That drug, midazolam, was used previously in problematic executions in Ohio, Arizona and Arkansas in which inmates didn't appear fully sedated before other drugs kicked in.

Attorneys for death row inmates fell short in attempts to prove that "Ohio's protocol is 'sure or very likely' to cause serious pain," the appeals court said in an 8-6 ruling.

An appeal of that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court is expected.

Phillips, 43, also has separate federal appeals pending that argue his age at the time - he was 19 - should be a consideration for mercy. The nation's high court already has banned the execution of people under 18.

"We're going to continue to fight as vigorously as we can to see that this execution does not go forward," said Tim Sweeney, an attorney representing Phillips.

Executions have been on hold in Ohio since January 2014 when death row inmate Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted during the 26 minutes it took him to die, the longest execution in the state to date. The state used midazolam and a painkiller on McGuire in a method that's since been abandoned.

What Ohio's protocols require:


30 days before the execution:

-- The warden of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, where executions are carried out, determines whether the state has sufficient execution drugs and reports his findings to the prisons agency director. The state has said in court filings it has enough drugs to carry out at least 4 executions.

--The execution team begins weekly training sessions.

21 days beforehand:

-- Prison medical staff evaluates an inmate's veins and plans for the insertion of the IV lines.

-- A member of the prison system's mental health staff evaluates the inmate's stability and mental health in light of the scheduled execution.

14 days beforehand:

The warden of Chillicothe Correctional Institution, where death row is housed, verifies the inmate's pre-execution visitors, his spiritual adviser, execution witnesses and funeral arrangements.

Source: Associated Press, July 7, 2017

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