Ohio made history last week by becoming the first state to use midazolam and hydromorphone in the execution of Dennis McGuire. State officials used this combination of sedative and painkiller after supplies of execution drugs ran dry. These shortages have caused other states to begin using experimental and dangerous methods to carry out executions.
One popular alternative has been for states to seek drugs from compounding pharmacies. These drugs have no accountability measures or oversight from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make sure the drugs work as intended. As a result, batches of drugs from compounding pharmacies may be ineffective. This increases the risk that the condemned will experience torturous pain while they are executed. Even if execution itself has not (yet) been found to violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on “cruel” and unusual punishment, certainly a torturous death using experimental drug combinations is.
Ohio is a trailblazer in devising new ways to execute people. It was the first state to use single drugs, sodium thiopental and then pentobarbital, in executions. These changes in execution methods underscore the tremendous problems that have plagued Ohio’s lethal injections. Spanning from 2006-2009, Ohio had three botched executions culminating in the failed execution attempt of Romell Broom, who is still awaiting his second execution date.
A state task force commissioned by the Ohio Supreme Court readies its recommendations to discuss how the death penalty is administered in the state. They have identified troubling issues such as large racial and geographic disparities in capital convictions, the use of the death penalty on severely mentally ill people, and the overall arbitrariness of the death penalty.
Via the ACLU of Ohio.