Ohio obtains hundreds of vials of lethal drugs

(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio has obtained hundreds of vials of lethal injection drugs, allowing it to put a condemned child killer to death next month and conduct multiple executions after it, records show.

Inventory logs obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request show the state received supplies three times in September and October for the first drug used in the process, a sedative called midazolam that’s been at the center of several lawsuits over lethal injection.

The records show the state obtained supplies twice in September and October for the second drug used in the process and three times in September for the third drug.

The logs don’t identify the source of the drugs, which is protected by an Ohio law shielding such information. Attorneys for death row inmates believe the drugs come from compounding pharmacies, which produce specialty batches and aren’t subject to the same type of federal regulation as drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Attorneys have been unable to identify the suppliers or producers because of the 2015 law and because recent federal court rulings bar them from obtaining the information through usual evidence channels.

The logs show the state could conceivably carry out dozens of executions with these supplies. What’s unclear is the drugs’ expiration dates — information not provided on the logs — which could control whether they’re available for future executions.

JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Ohio prisons agency, declined to comment.

The state plans to execute Ronald Phillips on Feb. 15 for the 1993 rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in Akron. Seven other executions are also scheduled this year.

The logs obtained by the AP show:

  • The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction received 750 vials of midazolam on Sept. 9; 750 vials again on Oct. 3; and 100 vials on Oct. 27. That could be enough for as many as 40 executions.
  • The state received 150 vials of rocuronium bromide, a paralytic drug and the second drug administered, on Sept. 9; and 80 vials of the drug on Sept. 30. Ten of those vials would be enough for one execution.
  • The state received 12 vials of potassium chloride, a drug that stops the heart and the last drug administered, on Sept. 9; 12 vials on Sept. 23; and 150 vials on Sept. 30. That could be enough for dozens of executions.

Executions have been on hold in Ohio since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted during the 26 minutes it took him to die, the longest execution since the state resumed putting prisoners to death in 1999.

The state used a two-drug method with McGuire, starting with midazolam, its first use for executions in the country.

Attorneys challenging Ohio’s new three-drug method say midazolam is unlikely to relieve an inmate’s pain. The drug, which is meant to sedate inmates, was also used in a problematic 2014 execution in

Arizona. But last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of midazolam in a case out of Oklahoma.

The state says the method is similar to Ohio’s past execution process, which survived court challenges. State attorneys also say the Supreme Court ruling last year makes clear that the use of midazolam is allowable.

A trial challenging the state’s execution method was wrapping up Monday in federal court in Dayton. Testifying for the state last week, a member of the execution team that put McGuire to death said he was puzzled by McGuire’s reaction and “was wondering what was going on.”

Another execution team member testified he didn’t believe McGuire suffered.

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