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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

Ohio execution policy released

Ohio's death chamber
Ohio's death chamber
As Ohio plans for the 1st execution in more than 3 years, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) has released their execution policy. Ohio is planning to execute Ronald Phillips, 43, who was sentenced to death for the rape and killing of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. 

Phillips is scheduled to be executed on July 26. It will be the 1st execution since the state's longest lasting execution of Dennis McGuire, which lasted 26 minutes as McGuire seized, snorted, gasped and fought for life.

Execution drug, Pentobarbital was banned from use in executions by drug manufacturers just prior to McGuire's scheduled date with death. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections policy at the time stated that in the event that Pentobarbital, 1 of the drugs used in the 3-drug-cocktail, is not available then midazolam and hydromorphone could be used as a replacement.

The 3-drug cocktail consisted of a short-acting barbiturate to render the inmate unconscious, followed by a paralytic, and then a chemical to stop the heart. Midazolam is a benzodiazepine that is used as a sedative. Hydromorphone is an opioid analgesic pain medication. Basically, the midazolam was used to sedate McGuire before he was overdosed on the pain medication.

Ohio plans to once again try the 3-drug method. According to Ohio's execution policy, "the terms 'Execution Drugs' means any of the following three options, under whatever names those drugs may be available to DRC from a pharmacy, manufacturer, supplier, wholesaler, distributor, pharmacist, or compounding pharmacy: 1) Pentobarbital; or 2) Thiopental sodium; or 3) A 3-drug combination of: a. Midazolam Hydrochloride; and b. One of the following 3 drugs: i. Vecuronium bromide; or ii. Pancuronium bromide; or iii. Rocuronium bromide; and c. Potassium Chloride."

The policy further states that the execution drugs used are at the discretion of the warden.

"It is the policy of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) to carry out the death penalty in a constitutional manner and as directed by Ohio Courts of Law. All execution processes shall be performed in a professional, humane, sensitive, and dignified manner," the policy further states. "It is the responsibility of the Director to designate a penal institution where death sentences shall be executed. The Warden of that facility, or Deputy Warden in the absence of the Warden, is responsible for carrying out the death sentence on the date established by the Ohio Supreme Court. The procedures set forth in this policy are to be strictly followed. Any situation that arises that would make following these policies difficult, impractical, or impossible shall be immediately reported to the Director or the Warden. Any variations of a substantial nature must be approved by the Director as described in this policy."

Phillips has less than 10 days until he is scheduled to die. This is not Phillips 1st execution date as his counsel argues that the 3-drug method is not humane. 24 hours prior to the execution, the death row inmate will be moved to Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF), location of the state's death house. There, Phillips will be monitored by 3 members of the execution team. During this time, the inmate will be able to meet with visitors including family and spiritual advisers. Phillips will also be evaluated by medical professionals in order evaluate his veins and plan for the insertion of the intravenous lines that will carry the execution drugs throughout his body.

Phillips continues to beg for mercy in hopes that his execution date will again be delayed as the fight against the selected execution drug method continues.

Source: portsmouth-dailytimes.com, July 17, 2017

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