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Death penalty in Ohio on hold for 2015

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In January 2014, Dennis McGuire was executed in Ohio using a two-drug regimen of midazolam and hydromorphone, and witnesses claimed he convulsed and grasped for 10 minutes before dying.

McGuire’s death raised concerns about whether these types of executions constituted cruel and unusual punishment, violating the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, and in response, Ohio has taken several steps to examine its execution processes.

At the beginning of January, about a year after McGuire’s execution, the Ohio Department of Corrections announced it would stop using the midazolam and hydromorphone drug combination. In addition, Gov. John Kasich delayed all 2015 executions to take a closer look at lethal injections a few weeks later.

“Nature of the legislation and states around the country for the last eight to 10 years put into question whether lethal injections violated cruel and unusual punishment, and it has to do with recent processes where states are essentially trying different methods of drugs without ever doing them before there was an element of experimentation,” said Kevin Werner, executive director at Ohioans to Stop Executions.

Executions across the United States have declined over the years.  In 2013, executions had decreased almost 10 percent since 2012, and 60 percent since they peaked in 1999, according to a CNN article.

Since 1976, lethal injection has been the most-used form of execution, followed by electrocution, gas chamber, hanging and firing squad.

Jennifer Fredette, assistant professor of public law at Ohio University, believes lethal injections brings new controversy over whether or not the Eighth Amendment is being violated.

“Not all of the justices agree that the lethal injections violate the [Eighth] Amendment. There are some who criticize the death penalty altogether for being cruel, some who criticize the process of death row (it takes a long time and prisoners never know if today is “their day,” so to speak),” Fredette said in an email. “So the lethal injection question just adds one more wrinkle to an already highly contentious area of law.”

Werner believes that the death penalty is not the answer for punishment.

“Ohio has better options such as life sentences that are handed down, death penalty is very effective it costs a lost of money and harms the victims family members,” Werner said.  Vast majority of criminals coming into the system have the death penalty hanging over their head, and they go life under parole.  A death penalty system has been limited and judges and juries are trying to find other ways.”

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