TIME Criminal Justice

Ohio to Resume Executions in 2017 with New Drug Cocktail

There was an unofficial three-year moratorium on executions

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)— Ohio plans to resume executions in January with a new three-drug combination after an unofficial three-year moratorium blamed on shortages of lethal drugs, an attorney representing the state told a federal judge Monday.

The state outlined its plan to Columbus federal Judge Edmund Sargus in a hearing where The Associated Press was the only media outlet present. Thomas Madden with the Ohio attorney general’s office said the state will use the drugs midazolam, rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride. He said the drugs are not compounded and are FDA approved.

Madden said a new execution policy will be announced at the end of the week.

Attorneys representing death row inmates say they’ll file a new challenge almost immediately.

The development opens the way for the execution of the Ronald Phillips for the rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in Akron in 1993.

Ohio hasn’t put anyone to death since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire repeatedly gasped and snorted during a 26-minute procedure using a never-before-tried two-drug combo.

The state also used midazolam in McGuire’s execution, making it disappointing that Ohio would again turn to that drug, said Allen Bohnert, a federal public defender representing several death row inmates.

Ohio and other states have struggled since then to find legal supplies of execution drugs.

The state has more than two dozen inmates with firm execution dates sitting on death row, with executions scheduled out as far as October 2019.

After McGuire’s execution, the longest ever in Ohio using lethal drugs, the prisons agency changed its policies to allow for single doses of two alternative drugs. Complicating matters, neither of those drugs — sodium thiopental and pentobarbital — is available in the United States after their manufacturers put them off-limits for executions.

The state has unsuccessfully tried to find compounded or specially mixed versions.

Last year, Republican Gov. John Kasich ruled out looking for alternative methods, such as the firing squad or hanging.

In 2014, Kasich signed a bill into law shielding the names of companies that provide the state with lethal injection drugs.

Supporters said such confidentiality is necessary to obtain supplies of the drugs, and the measure is needed to restart Ohio executions. Opponents said it was naive to think the bill could truly protect companies’ names from being revealed.

In 2014, former federal Judge Gregory Frost sided with the state, saying the prisons agency’s need to obtain the drugs outweighed concerns by death row inmates that the information was needed to meaningfully challenge the source of the drugs.

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