Ohio death row quandary: 2 dozen executions, no lethal drugs

By Andrew Welsh-huggins, Associated Press | Posted - Sep. 5, 2015 at 2:51 p.m.



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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio now has two dozen condemned killers with dates set for execution, but with four months before the first one, it still doesn't have the lethal drugs it needs to carry them out.

The state's inability to find drugs has death penalty opponents calling for the end of capital punishment there. Supporters say the state needs to keep looking or find alternatives to provide justice for killings that are in some cases decades old.

Like other states, Ohio has struggled to obtain drugs as pharmaceutical companies discontinued the medications traditionally used by states or put them off limits for executions.

The state hasn't executed anyone since January 2014, when condemned killer Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted repeatedly during a 26-minute procedure with a then untried two-drug method.

Ohio abandoned that method in favor of other drugs it now can't find.

The state's latest attempt, to obtain a federal import license to buy drugs from overseas, ran into a roadblock when the Food and Drug Administration said such actions are illegal because the drugs in question aren't FDA-approved.

On Jan. 21, the state is scheduled to execute Ronald Phillips for raping and killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in 1993. The remaining executions are scheduled clear into 2019.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction "continues to seek all legal means to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out court-ordered executions," said spokeswoman JoEllen Smith.

Gov. John Kasich, a Republican candidate for president, said other states won't give Ohio their drugs, and lawsuits may tie up attempts to import approved drugs. But he said there's still time.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien would like Ohio to consider nitrogen gas, approved by Oklahoma in April as an execution alternative.

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Associated Press Writer Ann Sanner contributed to this report.

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Online:

http://www.drc.ohio.gov/public/executionschedule.htm

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Andrew Welsh-Huggins

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