Executions resume in SOCF

By Nikki Blankenship - nblankenship@aimmediamidwest.com

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections plans to resume executions after more than a three year stay.

Executions have been on hold in Ohio since the execution of Dennis McGuire on Jan. 16, 2014 – Ohio’s longest lasting execution.

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, one of the drugs used in the three-drug-cocktail, is not available then midazolam and hydromorphone could be used as a replacement.

The three-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.

McGuire was injected at 10:29 a.m. Time of death was at 10:53 a.m. According to a timeline released by ODRC, the execution took 25 minutes. McGuire most likely died of suffocation caused by the drugs used in the process. Four minutes after injected, McGuire began to snort, choke, and gasp. During the process, he convulsed, his hand clenched, and his chest retched before succumbing to the drugs, becoming still, and then being pronounced dead.

Families of both McGuire and his victim witnessed the execution. Pool reporters stated that McGuire’s adult children held each other and cried throughout the process. “Oh, my God!” McGuire’s daughter reportedly stated during the process. The victim’s sister also witnessed the execution.

Now, three years later, Pentobarbital has not been replaced, and Ohio is ready to try it again with death row inmate Ronald Phillips, who was convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in 1993 in Akron. His execution is scheduled for July 26. It is his third execution date of the year due to months of reprieves to allow legal arguments over the drugs Ohio plans to use.

In response to the upcoming execution, ODRC spokeswoman JoEllen Smith simply referenced Ohio’s execution policy. The State will be following execution protocol.

Last month, a federal appeals court ruling allowed for Phillips’ execution and others by permitting Ohio’s use of a contested sedative midazolam. That drug, midazolam, was used previously in other problematic executions, such as that of McGuire, in Arizona and Arkansas. The ruling stated attorneys for death row inmates failed to prove that “Ohio’s protocol is ‘sure or very likely’ to cause serious pain.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to file an appeal. Phillips has filed separate federal appeals 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.

What Ohio’s execution protocols state:

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 four 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.


By Nikki Blankenship


Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.