After a three year break, the State of Ohio executed Ronald Phillips, 43, on Wednesday. Phillips was convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in 1993 in Akron.
Phillips entered the death chamber at 10:20 a.m. Wednesday morning. The execution started 11 minutes later, following the inmate’s last words – an apology to the victim’s family. At 10:42 a.m., no heart or lung sounds were reported. Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) Warden Ronald Erdos announced Phillips was dead at 10:43 a.m.
Executions had been on hold in Ohio since the execution of Dennis McGuire on January 16, 2014 – Ohio’s longest lasting execution.
Execution drug, Pentobarbital was banned from used 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’s execution had taken 25 minutes and was gasping and seizing throughout. Phillips, however, was dead within 12 minutes.
Information from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) and Phillips’ attorneys attested to his religious devotion.
According to the ODRC’s timeline of death, the inmate arrived at the death house Tuesday morning, where he spent his final hours writing letters, reading his Bible, speaking with a close friend and spiritual advisers and praying. His last meal was a cheese, bell pepper and mushroom pizza; strawberry cheese cake and a two-liter of Pepsi. He was given 16 slices of pizza, of which he ate eight. On Wednesday morning, before being executed, Phillips had a communion of unleaven bread and grape juice.
“We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Evans family for their loss. And to the Phillips family for theirs,” a statement from Phillips’ attorney’s Timothy F. Sweeney and Lisa M. Lagos read.
The attorneys further explained that Phillips spent him final days much like he spent his final hours.
“Ron Phillips committed an unspeakable crime when he was 19 years old, and was himself the product of a home filled with abuse and neglect,” they commented. “But the grown man who woke up this morning at age 43, ready to face his punishment, did not in any way resemble that troubled and broken teen. He had grown to be a good man, who was thoughtful, caring, compassionate, remorseful, and reflective. He tried every day to atone for his shameful role in Sheila’s death. In the past years, Ron has studied for and earned his certification to be a minister, and was preparing his first sermon. It was entitled ‘My People.’”
Rather than focusing on the drug method being used, Sweeney and Lagos commented on the age in which Phillips committed his crime.
“Ron’s case suggests we should thoughtfully reconsider our laws that permit the harshest punishment for those who committed their crimes as teenagers, especially the irrevocable punishment of death,” they stated. “We’ll end by saying that another thing Ron was regretful about today is that he would be unable to give that first sermon he’d been preparing. Having witnessed his execution this morning, and admiring the way he has carried himself these last months and years, we believe he did give that sermon, and it was a powerful one that serves as a testament of how to face death with dignity and courage and, above all, that no one is beyond redemption.”
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.