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Tennessee execution: Billy Ray Irick tortured to death, expert says in new filing

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Editor's note: Reporter Dave Boucher was one of seven state-required media witnesses at Irick's execution. 
Billy Ray Irick felt searing pain akin to torture before he died in a Tennessee prison in August, but steps taken in carrying out his execution blocked signs of suffering, according to a doctor who reviewed information about the lethal injection.
In new court filings entered late Thursday amidst an ongoing legal challenge of Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol, Dr. David Lubarsky said statements from people who witnessed the execution indicated the controversial drug midazolam failed to ensure Irick could not feel pain during his death.
As a result, the death row inmate “experienced the feeling of choking, drowning in his own fluids, suffocating, being buried alive, and the burning sensation caused by the injection of the potassium chloride,” Lubarsky wrote in the filing.
The document also says the state did not follow its own lethal injection protocol, raising questio…

Ohio death penalty opponents urge Gov. John Kasich to postpone executions

Ohio: 27,503 signatures
27,503 signatures. Photo Ohioans to Stop Executions (via Facebook)
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Death penalty opponents on Wednesday called on Gov. John Kasich not to resume executions next week after a 3 1/2-year hiatus.

Ohioans to Stop Executions delivered 27,503 signatures to Kasich's office, urging the Republican governor to postpone the state's 27 scheduled executions.

The petition calls for better safeguards to prevent innocent people from being sentenced to death, including 2014 recommendations from the Ohio Supreme Court's death penalty task force.

Retired Dayton-area Judge James Brogan, who chaired the task force, said executions should not resume before state legislators consider the 56 recommendations from the panel.

"This lack of action is disconcerting and will enable the core problems we identified to continue and potentially lead to wrongful death penalty convictions," Brogan said in a statement.

Executions have been on hold since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire took 26 minutes to die using a new and untried lethal-injection cocktail involving midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative.

State officials have had difficulty getting lethal injection drugs because European pharmaceutical companies have barred their sale for the purpose of executions.

But they said earlier this year they have enough of the new three-drug combo to carry out several executions.

Ronald Phillips
Ronald Phillips
Convicted Akron killer Ronald Phillips is scheduled to die July 26. Phillips was convicted in 1993 of raping and murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. The Ohio Parole Board unanimously recommended against clemency for Phillips in December, calling his crime "among the worst of the worst." The young victim's half-sister and aunt asked state officials to move forward with the execution to bring the family closure.

Phillips' execution has been delayed several times as death row inmates and death penalty opponents have challenged the state's untried protocol. Phillips' attorneys made a plea this week to the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the next three executions while the lawsuit makes its way through the courts.

In a separate letter to Kasich, 17 former corrections officials and administrators, including three from Ohio, warned of possible errors with the use of midazolam, which has been used in problematic executions in Ohio, Arizona and Alabama. The group warned a disturbing execution could traumatize corrections officials carrying it out.

Rex Zent, a former Ohio prison warden and Department of Rehabilitation and Correction official, said execution team members often deal with stress and anxiety from carrying out routine executions.

"Think of the psychological damage when something does go wrong or when they think of the men who have been exonerated from death row," Zent said at a Wednesday news conference.

Source: cleveland.com, Jackie Borchardt, July 19, 2017

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