Home Law Ohio execution of Dennis McGuire raises questions of legality

Ohio execution of Dennis McGuire raises questions of legality

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At 10:53 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 16, Dennis McGuire was pronounced dead—more than 15 minutes after being injected with Ohio’s experimental combination of drugs, the first to be used in the United States.

In addition to the unusually long execution, McGuire’s visible response to the drugs has many questioning if the new mix of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller, is a cruel and unusual punishment and a violation of the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Columbus Dispatch reporter Alan Johnson described the execution in an interview where he said that McGuire seemed to struggle for breath for 10 to 13 minutes.

“I don’t know if it was air hunger or what it was, but all I’m going to tell you is that he gasped deeply, it was kind of a rattling, guttural sound; there was a snorting through his nose a couple times; he definitely appeared to be choking,” Johnson said.

The risk of “air hunger” was one of the arguments made by public defender Allen Bohnert in the appeals process. However, Ohio Assistant Attorney General Thomas Madden, while arguing for the execution to be upheld, had previously said, “You’re not entitled to a pain-free execution.”

In response to the unusual progress of McGuire’s execution, Bohnert said in an Associated Press article that “the people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names,” and is calling for Gov. John Kasich to implement a moratorium on Ohio’s executions.

Other anti-death penalty groups are also pushing for the moratorium, with the hope that this will bring Ohio one step step closer to banning capital punishment.

“Ohio is going to repeal the death penalty. We’ve seen six states in six years repeal the death penalty … and yesterday’s execution is just another sign that it’s a broken system,” said Allison Smith, the director of communication and development for Ohioans to Stop Executions.

From 2007 to 2013, six states abolished capital punishment, raising the total number of states without the death penalty to 18, and two members of the Ohio House of Representatives are pushing legislation that would abolish capital punishment in the state.

The change in Ohio’s execution process was necessitated when the producer of the state’s previous drug of choice, pentobarbital, banned it from use in executions.

A timeline of McGuire’s death has not been released and Ohio’s prison system is reviewing the execution. McGuire was convicted of raping and fatally stabbing Joy Stewart, a pregnant newlywed in 1989. In his final minutes, McGuire reportedly thanked Stewart’s family for a letter he received from them and told his children, “I’m going to heaven. I’ll see you there when you come.”


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One Comment

  1. Dudley Sharp

    January 22, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    The (imagined) Horror of Dennis McGuire’s Execution
    Dudley Sharp

    He didn’t feel a thing.

    Ohio justly executed rapist/torturer/murderer Dennis McGuire.

    Unconscious, he snored and the media went apoplectic.

    The Horror is that the media will have 10,000 more articles about the imagined suffering of this executed rapist/torturer/murderer than they did about the real suffering of his victims, Joy Stewart, her husband Kenny, unborn child Carl and their families and friends.

    There is no indication that McGuire was conscious or in pain at any time after the first 2 minutes of the 25 minute execution process, as pharmacological realities would dictate (see below).

    Do folks wheeze, snore, move or cough etc. while sleeping? Of course, which is all that happened with McGuire, as some predicted.

    The Associate Press witness:

    “McGuire was still for almost five minutes, then emitted a loud snort, as if snoring, and continued to make that sound over the next several minutes. He also soundlessly opened and shut his mouth several times as his stomach rose and fell.” “A coughing sound was Dennis McGuire’s last apparent movement, at 10:43 a.m. He was pronounced dead 10 minutes later.” (OHIO KILLER EXECUTED WITH NEW LETHAL DRUG COMBO, ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS AP Legal Affairs Writer, The Daily Record, January 16, 2014 2:57PM

    No evidence of consciousness or pain.

    Possibly, someone in the media will look up the overdose properties of the drugs involved (below) and tell us how McGuire could, possibly, have been conscious. He couldn’t have been.

    The properties of the drugs and their overdosing effects are very well known – by no means an experiment.

    FACT CHECKING: Midazolam, a sedative, & Hydromorphone, an opiate/painkiller

    The Ohio lethal injection protocol is 10mg of midazolam & 40mg of hydromorphone, mixed together then injected.

    The injection took 20 seconds.

    The toxicity of benzodiazepines (including midazolam) overdose and risk of death is increased when combined with opiates and when used intravenously, with symptoms including respiratory distress, coma and death.

    “More than 80 deaths have occurred after the use of midazolam . . . 78% of the deaths associated with midazolam were respiratory in nature.” (MIDAZOLAM HYDROCHLORIDE: Human Health Effects, http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@[email protected]+6751

    “The initial intravenous dose for sedation in adult patients may be as little as 1 mg, but should not exceed 2.5 mg in a normal healthy adult.”, Midazolam Injection,

    4 times that initial maximum dose was given to McGuire.

    However, ” . . . total dose >5 mg (of midazolam) “usually” (my emphasis) not necessary to reach desired sedation . . .”, Medscape, midazolam (Rx) – Versed, IV, http://reference.medscape.com/drug/versed-midazolam-342907

    Hydromorphone overdose,

    “IV initial dose: 0.2 to 1 mg every 2 to 3 hours (given slowly over at least 2 to 3 minutes)”, Hydromorphone Dosage, http://www.drugs.com/dosage/hydromorphone.html

    40-200 times those dosages were given to McGuire.


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