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Federal judge rules Ohio executions are unconstitutional

Posted at 5:34 PM, Jan 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-26 17:34:40-05

It has been more than three years since Ohio’s last execution and it will likely be even longer before the state has another one. A federal judge ruled Thursday that Ohio’s method of execution is unconstitutional and as a result, the judge ordered that all executions be postponed.

Thursday’s ruling though is just the latest in what has been a rocky few years for Ohio’s execution system.

“We’ve seen over the last decade or so that Ohio just has not done executions very well,” said Mike Brickner, the Senior Policy Director at the ACLU of Ohio.

A 2014 execution in Ohio led to a death row inmate waiting 25 minutes while a cocktail of drugs surged through his body. The inmate suffered the entire time before he died. That led the state to halt their executions until a sufficient drug combination could be figured out, but the next best solution, still isn’t good enough.

A judge ruled that since Ohio’s lethal injection combination has the same initial drug as it did three years ago, it runs the risk of being faulty.

“Is there actually a humane way to kill a person? And I think the answer to that question is no,” said Brickner.

Brickner has been arguing against the death penalty in Ohio for over a decade. He’s now using the latest ruling to prove his point.

“Now what they’re doing is basically tantamount to human experimentation where we’re just trying out new drugs that we think will work in executions but we don’t know,” he said.

“The American pharmaceutical companies uniformly say that they do not want their medicines to be misused in killing prisoners,” said Robert Dunham, the Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Dunham, an expert on the death penalty, say Ohio and other states that still use it, will have a hard time obtaining the necessary drugs.

“There’s not a single major pharmaceutical manufacturer who’s regulated by the FDA, that will voluntarily sell pentobarbital to the states to carry out executions,” he said.

The state will likely appeal Thursday’s ruling, in which case the process would continue in court.