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Ohio to resume death penalty executions in 2017

Photo by Ken Piorkowski.
Written by Molly Anderson

Ohio is scheduled to resume inmate executions in 2017 after a three-year hiatus caused by the lack of available lethal drugs that are used during capital punishment.

The last execution in Ohio was convicted murderer Dennis McGuire in January of 2014.

“There’s ongoing litigation with approximately 80 plaintiffs regarding the death penalty in the state of Ohio,” Dan Tierney, spokesperson for Ohio’s Attorney General Office, said. “As part of that there was a status conference on the litigation on Monday and our attorneys in that hearing notified the court that we would be filing a protocol change for Ohio’s death penalty.”

Ronald Phillips, convicted for raping and killing his girlfriend’s three-year-old daughter, is scheduled to be the first execution after the pause. The execution is scheduled for January 12, 2017.

There are 137 males and one female currently on death row in Ohio. Since 1981, there have been 320 death penalty sentences in Ohio alone.

Nationwide, seven states have stopped the use of the death penalty completely and 19 have temporarily suspended or heavily reduced the use of it.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office is scheduled to release their full length protocol change within the next week.

“This is certainly likely going to be under judicial review,” Tierney said. “But when we file the notice of our protocol change, that will likely compel the judge to issue a scheduling order.”

As the protocol change goes under judicial review, there will be an extensive assessment of not only the safety of the drugs – which are said to be FDA approved – but also of any possible issues with its implementation.

“This particular litigation has been going on for years and certainly has provided judicial oversight and supervision over the process in Ohio,” Tierney said. “We don’t necessarily need support to proceed in these policies.”

During the litigation period the plaintiffs may motion for review on certain issues surrounding the new protocol. The next execution will not occur until early next year. Until then, legislators plan on doing more at the state level, especially in response to the court’s judicial review of this case.

“It’s important to understand this particular process, because this litigation involves judicial review,” Tierney said. “In the state of Ohio we certainly will comply with any orders of the court.”

Once the new protocol is published, more detailed information will be provided on what Ohioans can expect as the executions in Ohio resume.

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Molly Anderson

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