Ohio's Experimental Execution Blasted As Cruel, Prolonged

Witnesses say Dennis McGuire's execution using an untested drug cocktail took too long and caused unnecessary suffering.

Ohio's Experimental Execution Blasted As Cruel, Prolonged
Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction

The state of Ohio executed convicted murderer and rapist Dennis McGuire Thursday via lethal injection. But witnesses say an experimental cocktail of drugs used by the state may have caused McGuire unnecessary suffering.

"McGuire appeared to gasp loudly for air under these new drugs. He made several snorting or snoring sounds, and then convulsed for roughly ten minutes before dying." (Via CNN)

McGuire was convicted in 1994 of the rape and murder of 22-year-old Joy Stewart, who was seven months pregnant at the time. He was sentenced to death and confessed to the murder after his conviction. (Via WHIZ)

But a shortage of pentobarbital, the drug typically used in executions, forced Ohio to turn to a never-before-used combination of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. (Via The Columbus Dispatch)

McGuire's lawyers tried to stay his execution, claiming the experimental procedure would be cruel and unusual punishment. But state officials successfully argued inmates are not entitled to a pain-free death.

Ohio's Director of Corrections told WDTN, "The execution will be humane. If I believed that it would not be, we would not be proceeding."

But media witnesses say McGuire's execution took much longer and seemed to cause more suffering than normal executions.

"A couple times he definitely appeared to be choking. ... I've never seen anything that lasted so long, and the shuddering, gasping, was so pronounced." (Via WRGT)

McGuire's family is planning to sue the state over the execution. One of his attorneys blasted the procedure as inhumane and appalling.

"At this point it is entirely premature to consider this execution protocol to be anything other than a failed, agonizing experiment by the state of Ohio." (Via WCMH)

But one lawyer told The New York Times McGuire's apparent suffering is being blown out of proportion. "The inmate does get a sedative as the very first thing. However distasteful it may be to observe, he is not in any kind of extreme pain that ought to concern us."

The new drug cocktail was originally supposed to be tested during the execution of convicted child murderer Ronald Phillips. But Phillips asked to donate organs after his death, and the state gave him an eight month reprieve to consider this request.